Alabama Forestry Commission Taking an Active Role in Threatened and Endangered Species

Walter E. Cartwright, Forest Management Division Director, Alabama Forestry Commission

The Northern Long Eared Bat and Black Pine Snake were recently listed as threatened and critical habitat was established for the species’ recovery. These and other recent listings by the US Fish and Wildlife Service has prompted The Alabama Forestry Commission to hire a retired state employee with vast experience in the wildlife field and particularly related to threatened and endangered species. Ray Metzler will serve as a Threatened and Endangered Species Specialist, monitoring proposed future listings, providing comments to the State Forester and the US Fish and Wildlife Service as needed. Ray will also provide forest management recommendations to field Foresters that would address habitats of concern and provide proper forest management techniques for landowners.

On April 26, 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a press release determining that “Critical Habitat is not Prudent for Threatened Northern Long-eared Bat”. These excerpts came from that press release:

“Given the nature of the primary threats facing the species and the potential harm of publishing its hibernation locations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that designating critical habitat for the northern long-eared bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is not prudent. The Service’s determination does not affect the bat’s threatened status, which it received in 2015 due to white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease impacting cave-dwelling bats."

“Critical habitat is a designation under the ESA for lands that contain habitat features that are essential for the survival and recovery of a listed species, which may require special management considerations or protections. The ESA requires the Service to consider which areas are needed for a species’ recovery and to designate critical habitat accordingly, unless it determines that doing so is not prudent for the species."

“While critical habitat has a fundamental role to play in recovering many of our nation’s most imperiled species, in the case of the northern long-eared bat, whose habitat is not a limiting factor in its survival, designating it could do more harm than good,” said Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director. “Today’s finding will ensure we don’t put the bat at greater risk by drawing people to its hibernation sites. It also enables the Service and our partners to focus our efforts where they clearly can do the most good, finding a solution to the primary threat of white-nose syndrome."

This sudden change in direction by that agency is one of many reasons that we need a specialist fully devoted to following these issues, which can literally change overnight or at some court’s decision. We have decided to be more proactive and less reactive to proposed listings and will work diligently with the USFW to provide any scientific and pertinent information that we can provide to them as well as the landowners of Alabama. Hopefully this proactive approach will limit the impact of any listings on the timberland owners of the state.