The Indiana Bat needs further protection to stop its decline

            Having decreased to lower than half of its population since it was listed as endangered in 1967 means that the USFWS needs to implement further protections for this bat, such as revoking permits to allow massive highway projects right through the prime range of the Indiana Bat.

            Some might wonder why a bat needs to be protected.  But what a terrible world we would live in if this species, which eats hundreds to thousands of insects every day, including moths, biting flies and mosquitoes, were to become extinct. 

            The Indiana bat is critical to the well-being of not only our environment, but of the people who live in and amongst the forested regions where bats spend their summers, eating thousands of insects.

            The insects that the Indiana Bat eats, such as mosquitoes and biting flies, cause disease among humans and damage crops.  By losing this natural means of controlling insects, we could greatly increase the prevalence of disease and crop damage in America .  These are the unforeseen consequences of pushing species to extinction that anti-environmental idiots either do not understand, or are too influenced by campaign contributions from those causing damage to Indiana Bat habitat to care.

            This species is under horrific assault to its habitat.  Because the need to protect this habitat is getting in the way of the destruction of the last old forest stands that we have left, some right-wing wackos want to gut the endangered species act, and de-list species that are in decline.  There can be no question that this idea to delist the Indiana Bat is based solely on politics, and not science.

            We need more protections to stop the fast decline of this species, and to restore it to a healthy population.

Maternity colonies of the endangered Indiana Bat use mature forests to raise their young.  These forests are fast being destroyed.

For example the Nelsonville Bypass would go through prime Indiana Bat habitat in southeast Ohio .  They have been found to use the area right along the bypass year round, and have been seen swarming twice along the route that would be devastated for the highway.

The USFWS should stop issuing incidental take notices for this bat that is in such fast decline.  Allowing massive highway projects through the last old forest expanses that these bats need is ludicrous if the Endangered Species Act is to have any merit.

We do not know what other species of animals, plants or microorganisms we are also pushing to extinction through the massive destruction and fragmentation of mature forests in America .  These species may prove to be a cure for cancer, as was seen in the Pacific Northwest where the endangered Yew tree would likely have been pushed to extinction if it were not for the spotted owl, and the protections that endangered species gave to old growth forests there.  The yew tree would likely have gone extinct before it was found to produce what is now one of the most widely used cancer treating drug in America today.

Proponents of gutting the endangered species act and delisting the Indiana Bat are thus acting against efforts to find the cure for cancer, Aids and every other disease known to humanity today. 

“It is not known how many alternate roosts are required to support a colony within a particular area, but large tracts of mature forest, containing large, mature trees increase the probability that suitable roost trees are preset.”

The study found that “ Indiana bats exhibit strong site fidelity to summer roosting and foraging areas, returning to the same area year after year.”

Female Indiana Bats arrive to the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio pregnant.  Under the protection of exfoliating bark of live or dead primarily old-growth trees, such as shagbark hickory or white oak, the endangered species rears her young.

The bats depend upon insects at the tree crowns  These endangered species need old growth trees, which have exfoliating bark that the bats use to raise their young.  As these bats can eat thousands of mosquitoes a day, losing the Indiana bat to extinction would just add more insult to injury to future generations that will mourn the loss of the last expanses of mature forests that the bats depend upon.

Indiana bats often use stream corridors and other linear woodland openings as flight corridors from roosts to foraging areas.  They also eat wetland-dependent insects such as flies, caddisflies and stoneflies.

            Some think who cares about a bat.  But we do not know what the world would be without this natural insect control.  Compared to many areas, the outdoors in southeast Ohio are surprisingly free of biting insects, largely because of species like the Indiana bat that live far off in the heights of these old trees underneath their bark.  But they come out at night and feed upon thousands of insects, insects that otherwise could be biting us, and eating the crops of our farms and gardens.

            An ESI report prepared for the USFWS for the impacts of the Nelsonville Bypass on the Indiana Bat found that maternity colonies of Indiana bats use roosts most often “in deciduous forests with large trees.”

            To get the exfoliating bark that the Indiana bats need, trees must be quite old and large.  Nearly all of the forests in Ohio have been logged, leaving very few old-growth trees that the bats depend upon to raise their young. 

            Private lands that represent the bulk of what the ESI claims as suitable habitat in the region are fast being logged.  Also, though the report found that adjacent habitat on the Wayne National Forest is managed for the Indiana bat, the management plan for the forest calls for massive logging of most of it, leaving few if any old trees for the Indiana bats to raise their young.

            The report calls Indiana bat roosts ephemeral, because they at times use giant dead trees.  But they also use giant live trees.  And dead or alive, it takes a long time to create a giant tree, and we have fewer and fewer of such trees every year, as more and more succumb to the chainsaw and increased wind events with climate change.

            While some may argue that the opportunistic nature of the Indiana Bat, as they have been found to use mine portals to replace lost cave habitat means they are adaptable and could be delisted.  But this mine habitat is not being recreated.  New mining techniques of strip mining and longwall mining, by far the most commonly used methods today, do not leave mine openings.  And room and pillar mines are now required to close mine entrances, and do not create bat habitiat.

            Furthermore, all the cave or mine habitat in the world cannot replace the summer roosting habitat of mature forests.  These old forests are also major tourist attractions, and sequester carbon dioxide.  So while some anti-environmentalists with blinders on, who can only hear the words of the logging, development, mining and highway building interests and their campaign contributions, may say that the listing of the Indiana Bat as endangered costs money, the reverse is likely true.

            By protecting habitat for the Indiana Bat, we protect habitat for people seeking the wisdom and ambiance of an old-growth forests.  We protect species that, like the Pacific Yew in the Northwest, may hold the key to curing cancer.  And we protect a species that naturally eats thousands of insects a day, insects that then do not bite people and give them disease, and destroy crops costing who knows how much money.

            Protecting the Indiana Bat also protects critical wetland and woodland stream habitat, that protect who knows how many other species, provide habitat for game species such as ducks and geese, and tourism attractions.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that “wetlands and streams with well-developed wooded riparian corridors also contribute to high-quality habitat” for the Indiana bat.

            The ESI May 15, 2003 report on Indiana bats along the proposed  Nelsonville bypass route found that the bats used beaver ponds extensively.  “Members of the WNF team completing autumn 2002 studies indicated substantial use of nearby beaver ponds by bats,” ESI reported.  “ESI’s field team also noted these ponds received extensive use by bats while surveys were completed at the portal.”  These wetlands and 6 miles of streams would be completely obliterated and turned into a 4-lane highway.  The heavy traffic would make a bloodbath of the bats.

            Anyone suggesting that this specie be delisted should be studied for conflicts of interest.  Most of the major push in delisting species come from those wanting to destroy habitat, such as the logging companies and the spotted owl.  They have a conflict of interest, and their arguments are not based on neutral science, and should be dismissed.  That is a basic principal in democracy, and it should be practiced particularly with environmental laws, where the common good and the survival of future generations is at stake.

            Anyone advocating that a species be delisted that is in major decline, is arguing against basic fact, and should be ridiculed as the failed regime that was just voted out this last November (such as Pombo in California ).  These anti-future, anti-survival, bought-off idiots are fundamentally against the environment that some of them even say they want to protect.

            Any sane regulator would look at the basic facts, that the Indiana Bat is in decline and it should be given further protections.

            For the Nelsonville bypass in Ohio , the USFWS only considered a 2.45 acre wetland loss in its decision of an incidental take of 10 Indiana bats.  But in fact the Ohio Department of Transportation plans at least 4.69 acres of wetland loss, with the actual impact on wetlands likely being 10-15 acres.  And the USFWS did not consider that the bats have been found to be swarming along the area, and have been found in mine portals.

            The USFWS also failed to consider the fragmentation of the habitat, or the fact that the Wayne National Forest management plan does not call for the restoration of old growth forest habitat, but instead calls for massive logging on more than a hundred thousand acres of forest.