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Proposal Would Allow Killing of Endangered Bats

Pennsylvania bat populations have been devastated by human activity and disease. Now, they face another threat from oil and gas development. (Don Pfritzer/Wikimedia Commons)
Pennsylvania bat populations have been devastated by human activity and disease. Now, they face another threat from oil and gas development. (Don Pfritzer/Wikimedia Commons)
December 6, 2016

BRISTOL, Pa. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on a proposal to allow oil and gas companies to kill bats, including some endangered species, in three states.

Nine companies have requested what's known as an Incidental Take Permit. It would allow them to kill bats from five species for a period of 50 years, as an unintended casualty of pipeline and well-pad construction, which can destroy bat habitat.

According to Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, bats play an important role in Pennsylvania's ecosystem.

"They pollinate, they spread seeds and consume large quantities of nocturnal insects," she explained. "This is a natural ecological niche that's fulfilled by these bats."

The Fish and Wildlife Service holds a series of public hearings this month, including events in the Pennsylvania cities of Houston and Williamsport.

The oil and gas companies say they're developing habitat conservation plans to minimize the effects of well construction on declining bat populations. But Carluccio pointed out that some bats are tree dwellers that roost and raise their young in Pennsylvania forests.

"As a result of that, there is a period of time when no cutting is allowed because of this special time that's needed by the bats as an important part of their life cycle," she explained.

She added that many species, including those listed in the permit proposal, have already been decimated by other human activities and by disease.

"About 98 percent of the hibernating bat populations in Pennsylvania have been lost in recent years just to the devastation of white nose syndrome," she continued. "So, Pennsylvania is on the edge of losing many of these species."

Information about submitting public comments is on the Delaware Riverkeeper website at delawareriverkeeper.org. The comment period ends on Dec. 27.

Andrea Sears/Shaine Smith, Public News Service - PA