Bat Fungus Threatens Home Building, Too

Filed in Codes and Standards, Land Development by on March 30, 2015 2 Comments

This post was updated April 1.

A fungal infection threatening the population of Northern long-eared bats may threaten residential development in the 37 Northern and Central states the bats call home.

NAHB submitted comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) March 17, telling the agency that its plans to list the bat as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are too vague and that its proposed buffer zones 150 miles from the bats’ presumed hibernation and restrictions around maternity roosting sites would place tight restrictions on the ability to develop lots for new homes, driving up costs for builders and buyers without a demonstrable corresponding benefit for the bats.

However, on April 1, FWS announced it is listing the bat as a threatened species. At the same time, FWS issued an interim special 4(d) rule, on which public comments will be accepted through July 1.

FWS cited increasing incidence of white nose syndrome, a fungal infection that erodes the bats’ skin and causes them to behave erratically.

bat map

This FWS map shows the bat’s range.

Under the 4(d) rule, FWS is able to make exceptions to the usual restrictions “necessary and advisable for the conservation of such species.” The agency is exempting forest management activities, expansion of utility rights of way and some tree removal projects.

Importantly for NAHB members, FWS has not recommended exemptions for home building, despite acknowledging the insignificant impact development activities have on the bat.

This means there will be additional limits on home development on sites containing known hibernation and maturity roost trees during hibernation and maternity roosting season.  These projects will be subject to ESA Section 9 “take” prohibitions and will require a Section 10 Incidental Take Permit. Sites without known hibernation and maternity roost sites will be able to proceed without additional compliance measures.

Surveying for the species is not required, so if you need to find out if your project site has known hibernation or roosting trees, please contact your local FWS field office.

In its comment letter, NAHB calls on the FWS to revise these proposed buffer zones, provide more information on known hibernation and maternity roost sites and exempt residential land clearing occurring within the buffer zone from any final rule.

For additional information, contact Larissa Mark at 800-368-5242 x8157.

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