The Game Commission Monday announced it is accepting public comment on a preliminarily approved action to list as state endangered species three cave bats decimated by white nose syndrome, as well as change the status of three wild birds.
The agency’s Board of Game Commissioners in late September preliminarily approved a measure to update the state’s list of threatened and endangered species by adding the northern long-eared bat, tri-colored bat and little brown bat.
As part of the overall state status-change package, the board also preliminarily agreed to upgrade the peregrine falcon from endangered to threatened; upgrade the piping plover from extirpated to endangered; and add the red knot-- already listed federally as threatened-- as a threatened species.
The northern long-eared bat already had been listed federally as a threatened species for more than three years. In addition, tri-colored bats and little brown bats currently are being evaluated for U.S. Endangered Species Act protection.
Written comment will be accepted on this status-change package until December 31. The Board of Game Commissioners also will accept public comment-- limited to five minutes-- at its January 27 and 28 meetings. Final adoption of the proposal will be considered at the Board’s January 29 meeting.
Public comments on the bat listings should be emailed to: [email protected]
; comments on bird listings should be sent to: [email protected]
. Both accounts accept email attachments.
These listings historically have ensured the Game Commission and other resource agencies work with industry if projects could be affected by the presence of endangered or threatened species.
All projects are screened for potential conflicts through a state environmental review, which has been in place since the early 1980s and now is called the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI).
PNDI was established to provide current, reliable, objective information to help inform environmental decisions and guide conservation work and land-use planning. Resource agencies continually update PNDI’s species records to ensure the best guidance and conservation possible.
Northern long-eared bats currently are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. If they become state listed, the Game Commission will continue to defer comments on potential impacts to northern long-eared bats to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. No additional coordination with the Game Commission will occur.
Since tri-colored and little brown bats currently are not federally listed and the Game Commission, as part of its status-change package, proposes to protect mothers and their young in summer (maternity) habitat by requiring consultation with the PGC for projects located within 300 meters of known roost locations.
Likewise, projects located with 300 meters of known hibernacula that do not contain federally listed bats will trigger Game Commission consultation.
“Sites that held these bats prior to the arrival of white-nose syndrome, but not since, won’t affect projects,” said Dan Brauning, Wildlife Diversity Division supervisor. “That distinction alone immediately reduces the potential for conflicts when you consider bats have lost upward of 97 percent of their historic populations in Pennsylvania.”
For perspective, there are about 30 hibernacula and 120 maternity sites known to support little brown and tri-colored bats that will be added to PNDI.
Prior to white nose syndrome appearing in 2008 in Pennsylvania, there were about 250 bat hibernacula and 300 maternity sites listed in PNDI, according to Greg Turner, Game Commission Endangered and Nongame Mammals Section supervisor.
The Game Commission will continue to coordinate with applicants to resolve conflicts, agency Executive Director Bryan Burhans Brauning pointed out.
“The Game Commission strives to work whenever possible with industry, to save jobs, and be a part of sound state government,” emphasized Burhans. “But we cannot look the other way as bats tumble toward extinction. This agency has statutory and state constitutional commitments to represent and conserve all wildlife for today and tomorrow.”
What works against these cave bats is their annual reproduction provides limited replacement. Most female cave bats have one pup per year, a rate that would place their potential recovery more than a century away.
The peregrine falcon has seen a steady statewide recovery, which qualifies its status to be upgraded to threatened under the agency’s Peregrine Falcon Management Plan. This upgrade would keep PNDI screening and Game Commission coordination at status quo.
Upgrading the piping plover’s status to endangered recognizes its return to breeding in Pennsylvania. After more than 60 years of absence, piping plover pairs successfully nested at Presque Isle State Park in 2017 and 2018.
And changing the status of the red knot – a rare migrant bird found in Pennsylvania mostly at Presque Isle State Park – recognizes its vulnerability to further declines.
Both piping plovers and red knots currently are federally listed. The Game Commission would continue to defer potential conflict coordination for both species to the USFWS.
For more information on animal species of concern, visit the Game Commission’s Threatened & Endangered Species webpage.