Officials with the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) and the Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group have recently announced that the local forest industry in Pennsylvania will not need to make changes despite other concerns over bat endangerment.
There are proposals to list the northern long-eared bat, tri-colored bat, and little brown bat on Pennsylvania’s list of endangered and threatened species in efforts to prevent extinction. The proposals are being brought to the Board of Game Commissioners in January. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, white-nose syndrome has decimated these three species in the state. The same fungus has killed millions of bats in the United States and Canada.
On September 7 2018, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was going to award $1 million in grants to help fight white nose syndrome. The bat-killing disease was first found in Vermont and neighboring areas of New York in 2007, and has since spread to at least 36 states and seven provinces in Canada.
Despite the damage this fungus is causing the bat population, the ANF will continue to permit activities, such as harvesting lumber. According to Collin Shepard, acting public affairs officer for the ANF, there will not be any additional regulations if the endangered species proposals go through unless sites are identified as potential habitats for bats.
Shepard noted that the northern long-eared bat was already listed as a federal threatened species in spring of 2015. At that time, the ANF implemented several conservation measures under its 2007 forest plan. This plan details that sites where the species are most sensitive are protected. This means that areas where bats hibernate, such as caves, are protected most heavily as well as trees during the time of year when mother bats have babies.
Since 1900, the United States has milled over 3 trillion board feet of lumber, affecting forests and animal populations across the country. While the ANF plans to keep adding to this amount of milled lumber, the organization has some exceptions. When they track a bat to a particular tree, they will take measures to protect that site from lumber harvesting.