4(d) Ruling on Northern long-eared Bat

Protections have been finalized for the northern long-eared bat and will take effect February 16, 2016. The finalized ruling reflects input from numerous agencies and organizations, including the Forest Stewards Guild, in an effort to balance the biological needs of this threatened species with the ecologic, economic, and social needs of other forest users. Portions of the 4(d) ruling are of significance to forest management practices throughout the range of the northern long-eared bat, which reaches from Maine to North Carolina along the Atlantic coast and west of the Mississippi River into Oklahoma north to Minnesota.

Within the mapped White-nose syndrome (WNS) Zone, incidental take of the northern long-eared bat is prohibited:

if it results from tree removal activities and

  • the activity occurs within 0.25 mile (0.4 km) of a known, occupied hibernacula; or,
  • the activity cuts or destroys a known, occupied maternity roost tree or other trees within a 150 foot radius from the maternity roost tree during the pup season from June 1 through July 31.

Within the range of the northern long-eared bat, the removal of hazardous trees for the protection of human life and property is still allowed. Prescribed fire can still be used as a forest management tool, provided that considerations are made to reduce the risk of incidental take of bats.

Additional excerpts from the ruling provide further detail on the thought process behind the rule:

Activities Not Involving Tree Removal Are Not Prohibited Under this final 4(d) rule, activities within the WNS zone not involving tree removal are not prohibited provided they do not result in the incidental take of northern long eared bats in hibernacula or otherwise impair essential behavioral patterns at known hibernacula. In our final listing determination (80 FR 17974; April 2, 2015), we identified a number of activities not involving tree removal that may have direct or indirect effects on northern long-eared bats. These activities have the potential to cause the incidental take of northern long-eared bats and include activities such as the operation of utility-scale wind-energy turbines, application of pesticides, and prescribed fire... 

Prescribed Fire Prescribed fire is a useful forest management tool. However, there are potential negative effects from prescribed burning, including direct mortality to the northern long-eared bat. Therefore, when using prescribed burning as a management tool, fire frequency, timing, location, and intensity all need to be considered to lower the risk of incidental take of bats....The use of prescribed fire, where warranted, will, in any given year, impact only a small proportion of the northern long-eared bat’s range during the bats active period. In addition, there are substantial benefits of prescribed fire for maintaining forest ecosystems....There is no evidence that prescribed fire has led to population level declines in this species nor is there evidence that regulating the incidental take that might occur would meaningfully change the conservation status or recovery potential of the species in the face of WNS

For more information on the northern long-eared bat 4(d) ruling, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/nleb/.