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USFWS Seeks Input on Endangered Listing for Tricolored Bat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is seeking public comment on a proposed rulemaking to list the tricolored bat as an endangered species. The Service is particularly seeking guidance on:

  • Biological or ecological requirements of the species, including habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;
  • Genetics and taxonomy;
  • Historical and current range, including distribution patterns;
  • Historical and current population levels, and current and projected trends; and
  • Past and ongoing conservation measures for the species, its habitat, or both.
  • Factors that may affect the continued existence of the species, which may include habitat modification or destruction, overutilization, disease, predation, the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, or other natural or manmade factors.
  • Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning any threats (or lack thereof) to this species and existing regulations that may be addressing those threats.
  • Additional information concerning the historical and current status, range, distribution, and population size of this species, including the locations of any additional populations of this species.
  • The reasons why we should or should not designate habitat as “critical habitat” under section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), including information to inform the following factors that the regulations identify as reasons why designation of critical habitat may be not prudent:
    • The species is threatened by taking or other human activity (including vandalism and disturbance of winter habitat) and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of such threat to the species; or
    • Such designation of critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species. In determining whether a designation would not be beneficial, the factors the Services may consider include but are not limited to: Whether the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of a species' habitat or range is not a threat to the species, or whether any areas meet the definition of “critical habitat.”

The current effort to list the tricolored bat has some similarities to the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) uplisting that closed in May. This bat species, much like the NLEB, is declining due to the fungal disease white nose syndrome, which is not caused by human activities in agriculture or forestry. However, the current listing for this species includes a wider range than the NLEB. The Service currently puts the range of the tricolored at 39 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The Service makes no mention of designating critical habitat, but does state that "unauthorized destruction or modification of suitable forested habitat (including unauthorized grading, leveling, burning, herbicide spraying, or other destruction of modification of habitat) in ways that kill or injure individuals by significantly impairing the species essential breeding, foraging, sheltering, commuting, or other essential life functions" may result in a violation of Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act. What precisely would constitute an "unauthorized" action is left unclear.

Geographically, bat species like the tricolored cover an immense amount of territory that overlaps with working lands and grazing allotments. Temporally, their essential activities (primarily, roosting) can take place over a significant chunk of the year, from about mid spring to late fall. Consequently, any overly-broad or restrictive listing of a bat species can have far-reaching impacts on landowners and federal agencies' ability to perform the necessary forestry work that mitigates wildfire risk, improvements vacant and permitted allotments, maintains roadways and infrastructure, and more.

Public comments will be accepted until November 14, 2022. If you have any questions or need support as you develop comments, please contact Sigrid Johannes (

Comment today!