Today is the last day of bat appreciation week and also Halloween!
It seems appropriate that I write about something scary.
Northern long-eared bats (myotis septentrionalis) have lost over 97% of their population due to white-nose syndrome. In November of 2022, the USFWS granted northern long-eared bats endangered status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This was good news. The ESA works to save species threatened with extinction by protecting critical habitat and prohibiting activities that would outright harm those species. In addition, it prioritizes studies that find new ways to prevent further declines in their population.
The scary part is that earlier this year, Congress voted to deny the protections granted to the northern long-eared bat and to strip away their endangered status under the ESA (S.J.RES 24). Congress did not base this decision on scientific studies or facts of any kind. This was based on opinions about the worth of another life. This is what Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), said during a hearing this year about this subject: “I see the bald eagle. That makes sense. I see the bears. That makes sense. But long-eared bats? I hope the white-nose syndrome wipes them out. We won’t have it to worry about” (Grandoni, The Washington Post).
This is deplorable.
A little over a month ago, I met a northern long-eared bat for the first time. She was so tiny yet had so much to say. Weighing only 5 grams, the same as a nickel, she was undismayed by my huge stature. And once she had recovered from her initial ordeal, she was in constant motion, exploring the area and gracefully flying and floating through the air like a butterfly. I sat and watched, totally in awe of her spirited personality and her beauty. How can someone say to her, you don’t deserve to live, your entire species is not important enough to exist?
Fortunately S.J.RES 24 was vetoed by President Biden. “If enacted,” Biden said, the resolution “would undermine America’s proud wildlife conservation traditions and risk extinction of the species” (Klein, TWS). The ESA was created to prevent extinctions and rigorous studies provide information about which species are at risk and require assistance. We need to respect the science.
One very simple action you can take this bat week is to learn about your representatives and candidates, discover which ones prioritize environmental issues, and then go out and vote. As humans, we have a responsibility to be stewards of nature and the environment. The healthy forests and wetlands, environments free of poisons and pesticides, and the clean air and stable climate that are required for the survival of these little bats is also necessary for all life on earth, including our own.