Last week the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service took a constructive step forward by recognizing the positive benefits of private working forests to the long-term conservation of the Northern Long-eared Bat.
In a final rule outlining the conservation plan for the threatened bat, the Service recognized that the landscape conservation benefits of forest management outweigh any need to differentiate marginal impacts of site-specific management practices. In doing so the Service excluded forest management from the prohibition on activities considered harmful to bats or bat habitat.
While correctly determining that white nose syndrome – a contagion destroying bat populations – threatens the continued existence of the bat, the Service acknowledged the benefits of forestry as part of the conservation solution. This sets an important precedent building on similar conclusions made by the Service for other species, including the Black Pine Snake in the southern U.S.
A variety of species benefit from sound existing forest management practices applied across broad landscapes. Recognizing and rewarding these benefits furthers species conservation while helping to retain the economic value of these forests as a hedge against land use conversion that could be harmful to at risk species.
NAFO commends the Service for this forward thinking approach to species conservation and encourages the agency to continue working cooperatively with forest owners to take full advantage of the many existing voluntary contributions working forests make to a full range of fish and wildlife species. Such cooperative efforts will continue to build trust and promote the meaningful long-term benefits envisioned by the authors of the Endangered Species Act.