Agriculture, Timber, & Energy Production Would Suffer If Northern Long-Eared Bat is Listed as Endangered
The House Natural Resources Committee held a field oversight hearing on “The Northern Long Eared Bat: The Federal Endangered Species Act and the Impacts of a Listing on Pennsylvania and 37 Other States.” This hearing examined questions regarding bat data and non-human-caused disease, as well as the likely negative impacts that a federal endangered listing of the Northern Long -eared Bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) would have on important activities such as farming, mining, timber, and agricultural activities.
In 2011, closed-door mega-settlements between two environmental groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) resulted in a deal that requires the Obama Administration to decide by 2016 whether to list 757 species as threatened or endangered and to list critical habitats for these species under the Endangered Species Act. (ESA). The proposed endangered listing of the Northern Long Eared Bat is part of the 2011 mega-settlement. A final decision for the Northern Long Eared Bat listing could be made within the next several months.
“The likely primary cause for any documented decline of the bats is not caused by any human-related activity, but rather from a disease transmitted mostly from bats to other bats called ‘White Nose Syndrome.’ It seems to me that efforts should focus on that issue, rather than creating a federal endangered species solution in search of a problem,” said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04). “Federal edicts that ignore state efforts and data and impose one-size-fits-all solutions is not the most cooperative way to achieve this objective.”
“The ESA is far from perfect and has generated many unintended and harmful consequences. In fact, we are at a point now where the law desperately needs to be improved and modernized,” said Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-O5). “No one can deny the challenge facing the Northern Long-Eared Bat due to White Nose Syndrome and there is consensus that we must learn more about the disease and improve partnerships at all levels to slow its spread. However, it is imperative that we get the science right and strategically address the root cause of the apparent population losses, rather than restrict large areas of the economy and activities that have no bearing on slowing or reversing the disease.”
“The proposed listing affects Pennsylvania as well as 37 other states. It will directly impact thousands of acres in Pennsylvania and business activities on them. It is my concern that Federal listings of this scope and magnitude should not be driven by arbitrary court-settlement deadlines or be based on unpublished or sketchy data or personal opinions by federal bureaucrats. It is vitally important that these decisions are carefully and openly scrutinized and scientific data is used,” said Congressman Scott Perry (PA-04). “I hope we can take a closer look at the Endangered Species Act and ensure that all proposed decisions to list a species be met with scientific data and not a knee-jerk reaction. The proposed listing could mean significant changes to Pennsylvania’s economic and energy industry and jobs, while doing little if anything to help the declining population of long-eared bats.”
This hearing is the latest in the Committee’s efforts to update and improve the ESA. In July, as a result of input from numerous stakeholders and witnesses who testified before the Committee on the effects of the ESA, the House of Representatives approved legislation that would improve and modernize the 40 year old law. The primary focus of these four bills is to promote data and cost transparency, species recovery, and litigation reform in the ESA.
Witnesses at today’s hearing highlighted the real economic impacts that the potential listing of the Northern Long-Eared Bat as endangered under the ESA would have on Pennsylvania citizens without any measurable benefits for the bat and offered real solutions on how the law can be improved so it is working in the best interests of species and people.
“To think that an unelected body can dictate to us when we can and cannot cut our standing timber on our own land according to a bat’s mating schedule is simply preposterous. It wouldn’t be so hard if there was come kind of recourse to protest the ruling made so far away by people who have never been here who really don’t give a hoot whether the citizens of Armstrong County have jobs is comprehensively unacceptable. The ESA encourages us, who have such a dynamic grasp of patriotism, to become lawbreakers in the Nation we’ve gone to fight for. It has to stop.” – State Representative Jeffrey Pyle, Pennsylvania 60th Legislative District.
“As a farmer, I believe that using both common sense and science is a logical way to approach not just farming, but regulations. It seems to me that this proposal to list the Northern Long-Eared Bat is flawed from both a scientific and common sense perspective. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that human activities have not had an appreciable effect on the species to date, why would we focus on human-induced impacts to try to slow population decline? It just doesn’t make sense… We’re more than willing to work with states and the federal government to do our part to ensure the longevity of the Northern Long-Eared Bat. But let’s make sure we’re solving the problem, not making new ones, because we’re not targeting the root cause.” – Jeff Brubaker, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau
“The habitat protection provisions associated with an endangered listing of the NLEB will have dramatic negative consequences for Pennsylvania’s forestry industry, its forest landowners, the state’s economy and the forest habitat itself – all while providing no benefit to addressing the impact of WNS that threatens the NLEB. The USFWS needs to forego any mandated restrictions on forest management practices. The USFWS needs to work with other federal agencies, state wildlife and forestry agencies and other stakeholder to fill the gaps in the existing data and understanding of NLEB and WNS. Finally, the USFWS and others need to remain focused on the research and efforts on the control and elimination of the WNS that is the actual threat to NLEB and other bat species.” – Paul Lyskava, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Forest Products Association
“Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) and our member companies believe that the proposed listing is unsupported by the facts and law and is not justified by the best available scientific and commercial data. We also believe that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must utilize its six month extension to subject the data to rigorous and transparent review to those in the scientific community, which will confirm the lack to scientific and legal justification for listing the Northern Long-Eared Bat…PIOGA suggests that if any final rule resulting in the listing of the species is adopted, it may not lawfully restrict activities, such as oil and gas development, that have no casual connection to White Nose Syndrome or otherwise threaten of endanger the Northern Long-Eared Bat.” – Lou D’Amico, President & Executibg Director of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association
“A listing would therefore, severely restrict any permitted earth moving activity proposed within a broad geographic area, particularly among the mineral extraction industry. The result would be permit delays and increased business costs without any assurance of commensurate environmental benefits. The Northern Long-Eared Bat has been hard-hit by White-Nose Syndrome, especially in the United States. Indeed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife repeatedly recognizes that the White-Nose Syndrome, not any human activity, alone is responsible for the major impacts to the Northern Long-Eared Bat that have been reported. Any species protection requirements that would accompany a federal listing will not address the White Nose Syndrome impact on Northern Long-Eared Bats. It would be senseless to impose significant costs on a multitude of industries whose activities would not affect the bat’s population with restrictions that would not in any measurable manner preserve the species.” – John Stilley, President, Amerikohl Mining, Inc.
“While U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may not take economics into consideration when making decisions, it should recognize the fact it takes dollars generated from tax paying businesses to have a clean stable environment both socially and ecologically. The forest products industry is one of the largest industries in the state of Pennsylvania generating over 14 billion dollars to our state economy. As a logger, and part of the forest products industry here in Pennsylvania, I am committed to continuing forestry practices that enhance NLEB habitat. Any premature listing of an endangered species, or listing without taking into account economic considerations to the State, could have a negative impact to Pennsylvania’s Forest Products Industry, including timberland owners and loggers as well as a significant impact to our State’s economy.” – Martin Melville, Owner, Melville Forest Services