The potential listing of the Northern Long-Eared Bat as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act could have a significant impact on oil and gas exploration and production and operating companies due to the species’ wide-ranging habitat. The bat’s range covers much of eastern North America, from Maine to North Carolina. Its range also extends south to Louisiana and Oklahoma, and north into North and South Dakota and Canada, all active oil and gas exploration and shale play areas.
The population of the Northern Long-Eared Bat has been impacted due to white-nose syndrome, a disease which has been spreading since 2006. The disease is caused by a fungus which affects the bats when they hibernate. It has a 90 to 100 percent mortality rate. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (“FWS”)’s website, the population of this species of bat has declined by 93 to 98 percent.
FWS received petitions to list the bat as threatened or endangered. On January 16, 2015, the FWS published a “special take rule” pursuant to Section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act. The proposed rule would exempt the following activities and practices from being a “taking”: forest management practices; maintenance; limited expansion of transportation and utility rights-of-way; removal of trees and brush to maintain prairie habitats; limited tree removal projects; removal of hazardous trees; removal of the bats from human dwellings, and research-related activities. None of these exemptions cover regular oil and gas operations.
The full text of the rule can be found at 80 FR 2371-2378. The public comment deadline is March 17, 2015. For more information, contact Toni Ellington, or call (504) 599-8500.