Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Game Commission Board Approves Additional Protection For 3 Cave Bat Species

On January 29, the state Board of Game Commissioners gave final approval to a measure that updates the state’s list of threatened and endangered species, providing three cave bat species additional protection by reclassifying them as state endangered species.
The update also upgrades the peregrine falcon’s status from endangered to threatened; upgrades the piping plover from extirpated to endangered, and lists the red knot – a federally threatened species – as a threatened species within Pennsylvania, as well.
The three cave bat species that have been given additional protection are the northern long-eared bat, tri-colored bat and little brown bat, all of which have been decimated by white-nose syndrome since it appeared in Pennsylvania in 2008,
The northern long-eared bat was listed as a federal threatened species in April 2015. In addition, tri-colored bats and little brown bats currently are being considered for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The updates adopted Tuesday were approved preliminarily in September.
Written public comments on the measure were accepted through December. Of the 33 comments submitted, none opposed any of the listings.
These listings historically have ensured the Game Commission and other resource agencies work with industry if projects could be affected by the presence of endangered or threatened species.
All projects are screened for potential conflicts through a state environmental review, which has been in place since the early 1980s and now is called the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI).
PNDI was established to provide current, reliable, objective information to help inform environmental decisions and guide conservation work and land-use planning. Resource agencies continually update PNDI’s species records to ensure the best guidance and conservation possible.
Northern long-eared bats currently are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. If they become state listed, the Game Commission will continue to defer comments on potential impacts to northern long-eared bats to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. No additional coordination with the Game Commission will occur.
Since tri-colored and little brown bats currently are not federally listed, projects within 300 meters of known summer roost locations and winter hibernacula used by these bats will require Game Commission consultation.
“Sites that held these bats prior to the arrival of white-nose syndrome, but not since, won’t affect projects,” said Dan Brauning, Wildlife Diversity Division supervisor. “That distinction alone immediately reduces the potential for conflicts when you consider bats have lost upward of 97 percent of their historic populations in Pennsylvania.”
For perspective, there are about 30 hibernacula and 120 maternity sites known to support little brown and tri-colored bats that will be added to PNDI as a result of the state-endangered listing.
Prior to white nose syndrome appearing in 2008 in Pennsylvania, there were about 250 bat hibernacula and 300 maternity sites listed in PNDI, according to Greg Turner, Game Commission Endangered and Nongame Mammals Section supervisor.
What works against these cave bats is their annual reproduction provides limited replacement. Most female cave bats have one pup per year, a rate that would place their potential recovery more than a century away.
But some of the proposals for status change represent better news.
The peregrine falcon has seen a steady statewide recovery, which qualifies its status to be upgraded to threatened under the agency’s Peregrine Falcon Management Plan. This upgrade would keep PNDI screening and Game Commission coordination at status quo.
Upgrading the piping plover’s status to endangered recognizes its return to breeding in Pennsylvania. After more than 60 years of absence, piping plover pairs successfully nested at Presque Isle State Park in 2017 and 2018.
And changing the status of the red knot – a rare migrant bird found in Pennsylvania mostly at Presque Isle State Park – recognizes its vulnerability to further declines.
Both piping plovers and red knots currently are federally listed. The Game Commission would continue to defer potential conflict coordination for both species to the USFWS.
For more information, visit the Game Commission’s Threatened & Endangered Species webpage.
Game Lands
The Board also took action to add more than 3,000 acres to the state game lands system.
Click Here for the complete summary of the January 29 meeting of the Game Commission board.
(Photo: Brown bat.)
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