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Opinion: Long-eared bat as an endangered designation should be considered in the Buffalo Springs project

The new listing has implications for the proposed Buffalo Springs project but neglects the urgent need to define a critical habitat for conservation

On November 29, the Department of the Interior’s US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) needed protection as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

As a result of this classification as endangered, it is now illegal to harass, injure, stalk, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, trap, collect, or attempt to engage in such behavior this species to participate. However, the USFWS failed to define a “critical habitat” for the northern long-eared bat at the time, seriously undermining the ability to meaningfully protect this endangered species and promote its recovery. The northern long-eared bat relies on roosts in mature, deep forests to reproduce successfully.

Quality forests of this type continue to face unprecedented threats from development, logging, slash-and-burn, and more.

USFWS’ move could have significant implications for the proposed Buffalo Springs project, which the US Forest Service opened for public comment for 30 days last week. The massive proposed project calls for up to 15,100 acres of aggressive burning and 5,124 acres of logging, including up to 707 acres of clear cutting, within the Hoosier National Forest (HNF) and represents the largest logging and logging proposal in the history of that forest.

“We are encouraged by this reclassification as the northern long-eared bat has suffered dramatic losses from the fungal disease White Nose Syndrome, killing more than 97% of individuals in affected populations,” said Jeff Stant, executive director of the Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA). . “Nonetheless, we remain cautious as to what protection is actually afforded to the northern long-eared bat without critical habitat protection.”

The Buffalo Springs project is a threat to Indiana’s last great frontier of wilderness and to the tens of thousands of Hoosiers who depend on the Patoka Continental Divide for clean water and the wildlife the HNF call home. “The Buffalo Springs area, which includes the famous Buffalo Trace, is naturally, culturally and historically significant and must be preserved for the future. Now is the time to help with that effort by providing the United States Forest Service (USFS) with comment on your draft environmental assessment,” said Steven Stewart, IFA’s Hoosier National Forest program director.

The IFA is urging all Hoosiers to submit a public comment to the Forest Service before the December 19 deadline. “People need to express their opposition to these harmful practices in our publicly owned forests,” Stant said. “This new information from the Fish & Wildlife Service provides the public with even more concrete arguments to halt this destructive proposal that would destroy known habitat for the northern long-eared bat, along with countless other species.”

In addition to aggressive logging and burning, the forest service plans to apply chemical herbicides/pesticides to 771 acres and build over 17 miles of new or reopened roads in the critical Patoka watershed within the HNF.

The forest area in Indiana is approximately 4.7 million acres of woodland, mostly in the rugged and hilly south of the state. The HNF covers 204,000 acres and is one of the smallest and most fragmented national forests in the country. It accounts for less than 1% of the state’s land area (4% of forest area) but nearly half of public property. The Buffalo Springs Project will destroy more than 10% of the forest and destroy the habitats of countless plant and animal species for many years to come.

To provide the public with more information and to help them submit comments, the IFA is hosting a Public Comment Writing Workshop on Sunday, December 4 from 2-4 p.m. at the Greenfield Township Community Building in Orange County, 2015 W County Rd 550 S, Paoli, Indiana.

The USFS has stated that comments submitted after the December 19 deadline will not be accepted, so the IFA wants to ensure citizens act NOW to raise their concerns. In addition, citizens who do not comment during this period will be barred from participating in further regulatory actions related to this project. Comments may be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to: Hoosier National Forest All Units, 811 Constitution Avenue, Bedford, IN 47421

Comments should also be copied to Senators Mike Braun and Todd Young and members of the US House of Representatives from Indiana.

Submitted by the Indiana Forest Alliance. For more information and resources about the Buffalo Springs Project, visit the IFA website at www.indianaforestalliance.org and www.savehoosiernationalforest.com.

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