For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388 (office)

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Two Bat Species Threatened by White-nose Syndrome

RICHMOND, Vt. - The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of
intent to sue Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for not acting quickly
enough to give endangered species protections to two bat species hit
hard by a fast-spreading, lethal disease known as white-nose syndrome.
The Center says the agency has hurt both eastern small-footed and
northern long-eared bats by missing legally required deadlines for
responding to an Endangered Species Act petition to protect them.

"Bat
numbers are plummeting, bat biologists across the country have been
urgently sounding the extinction alarm, and yet the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service is silent," said Mollie Matteson, a conservation
advocate at the Center.

The Interior Department
missed an April deadline for responding to the endangered species
petition and has given no indication of when and how it intends to
answer the call for stronger protections for the two species. Both bat
species were thought to be uncommon to rare prior to the appearance of
white-nose syndrome in the northeast United States in 2006. Since then,
the disease has spread into 14 states and two Canadian provinces, taking a harsh toll on the two species as well as seven others.  

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In
Massachusetts, New York and Vermont, the states where the disease has
been present for the longest, the eastern small-footed bat population
has decreased by nearly 80 percent over the past two years, and the
northern long-eared bat population has shrunk by 93 percent.

"These
two bat species are on a fast track to extinction," said Matteson. "How
close to extinction do these bats need to be before the agency
acknowledges the need to grant them the strongest protections
possible?"

Researchers believe white-nose syndrome
is caused by a fungus, new to science, that spreads from bat to bat and
from bats to the caves where they hibernate. There is compelling
evidence that humans can also transmit the fungus via caving gear and
clothing. The petitioned bat species are also threatened by human
disturbance and vandalism in caves, habitat loss and environmental
toxins.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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