NAHB Swoops in When Corps Goes Batty

Filed in Codes and Regulations, Environmental by on August 4, 2015 1 Comment
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Home builders in Maryland almost saw their projects grind to a halt earlier this summer after federal regulators took a recent decision regarding the Northern long-eared bat just a little too far.

Fortunately, the NAHB federation was able to fly to the rescue.

The bat’s recent listing as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is restricting builders’ and developers’ ability to clear forested lots between mid-April and mid-September across 37 states and almost 2,000 counties.

If a planned project is within the bat’s habitat range, and if the builder also needs to get a federal wetlands permit (Section 404) from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the builder must first get the ok from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the ESA’s Section 7 consultation requirement before the Corps can legally issue a permit.

Unfortunately, some Corps districts have taken the ESA consultation requirements too far.

bat map

This Fish and Wildife Service map shows the bat’s range.

 

For instance, the Baltimore Corps District, which covers all of Maryland, released a Special Public Notice at the end of June stating it would suspend all previously authorized Section 404  permits unless landowners could prove to the Service that there were no bats on the property.

But wait: There’s more. The only way a landowner could disprove the presence of a bat, the Service said, was to cough up a few thousand dollars to conduct an officially sanctioned survey of the property. Needless to say, Maryland builders were not happy with these retroactive permit conditions.

Working together, the Maryland BIA and NAHB contacted the Baltimore Corps District Office and Corps Headquarters and insisted they leave existing permits alone.

The result? Within days, the Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office, which coordinates with the Baltimore Corps District Office in Maryland, posted a notice on its website that they will no longer impose land-clearing restrictions on Maryland builders who have already obtained a 404 wetlands permit.

While NAHB hopes this serves as an example for other Corps Districts found across the bat’s sweeping range, rest assured that if other Corps offices decide to go batty like Baltimore, NAHB will be ready to swoop in.

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  1. Jim Irre says:

    Working behind the scenes, Milton L. McCarthy of McCarthy & Associates, Inc., was at least partially instrumental in getting the FWS to issue the declaration reducing the burden on Maryland builders. Mr. McCarthy maintains close relations with regulatory staff, and is a strong but unheralded voice for the building industry in Maryland.

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