NLEB Ruled Endangered

Press Release: 4/1/2024 – USFWS Final Rule on Northern Long-Eared Bat

On November 29, 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule in the Federal Register to reclassify the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) from threatened to endangered and nullify the 4(d) rule. On March 31, 2023, when the uplisting rule for NLEB became effective, the Service released interim NLEB guidance and tools to help stakeholders transition to the NLEB reclassification. The interim wind guidance, interim habitat modification guidance and interim Section 7 framework were scheduled to be in place until April 1, 2024. The interim tools have been extended to remain in effect until the final tools are issued this summer. On September 13, 2022, the Service announced a proposal to list the tricolored bat (TCB) as endangered. We continue to be deeply committed to working with partners on a balanced approach that reduces the impacts of white nose syndrome and conserves remaining NLEB and TCB populations.

Today, we released a preview of the draft guidance and tools that facilitate compliance under the ESA for habitat management, development and other projects with regard to the northern long-eared bat and tricolored bat. We are releasing this preview so that partners and stakeholders can familiarize themselves with changes from the interim NLEB guidance and have the opportunity to ask questions or provide feedback before the final tools and guidance go into effect in summer 2024. Our goal is to avoid confusion and disruption for federal, state and Tribal partners, project proponents, landowners and other interested parties with projects that occur in suitable habitat within the NLEB and TCB ranges. These tools also support the conservation of the tricolored bat, should the species be listed.

Some of the changes in these documents reflect the incorporation of technical and scientific feedback received on the interim NLEB tools. Any additional feedback on the draft materials that is shared before May 1, 2024, may be considered in the development of the final documents. Please contact us at bat_tools@fws.gov to share any questions and substantive feedback.

The tools and guidance available for review include: 

  • Combined northern long-eared bat and tricolored bat range-wide determination key (accessed through IPaC) 
  • Consultation guidance for most project types other than sustainable forestry and wind, titled “Northern Long-eared Bat and Tricolored Bat Voluntary Environmental Review Process for Development Projects”
  •  Sustainable forest management tools, including Working Forests for Wildlife (administered through a Wildlife Cooperation Extension Agreement)
  • Avoidance guidance for wind facilities for both species
    • “Land-based Wind Energy Voluntary Avoidance Guidance for the Northern Long-eared Bat (Myotis septentrionalis)” and supporting documents
    • “Land-based Wind Energy Voluntary Avoidance Guidance for the Tricolored Bat” and supporting documents
  • Updated northern long-eared bat and tricolored bat species range maps

To view the tools and guidance for NLEB visit our northern long-eared bat species page.

To view the tools and guidance for TCB visit our tricolored bat species page

By providing a preview period of these draft documents, our agency is fulfilling a commitment to seek feedback from partners, stakeholders and project proponents before finalizing tools and guidance. Final tools and guidance will replace the interim tools and guidance that were released in March 2023 for NLEB. These tools and guidance use the flexibilities in the ESA to conserve species and will help to streamline project review. 

The Service is committed to working with interested stakeholders to ensure conservation efforts are minimally disruptive when possible. Our goal is to implement innovative solutions to meet development needs, while maintaining ecosystem integrity and protecting fish and wildlife habitat. The Service will continue to build on our strong foundation for working with stakeholders to conserve bats while allowing economic activities to continue to occur within these species’ ranges. For example, through the use of habitat conservation plans, wind energy projects can move forward after minimizing and mitigating their impacts to northern long-eared bats.

Contact Us

To contact NESAF, please email the appropriate member of our Board of Directors. General questions can be directed to our Chair or the website administrator at webadmin@nesaf.org.

NESAF

New England Society of American Foresters
54 Portsmouth Street
Concord, NH 03301