WASHINGTON, October 14, 2014 (Office of U.S. Sen. John Thune press release) – U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Representative Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota) today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe calling on the FWS to withdraw its proposed listing of the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) as endangered due to insufficient supporting data to warrant the listing.

“I am deeply concerned by the FWS’s pending decision to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered while simultaneously proposing flawed forest management guidance that could significantly harm the Black Hills economy,” said Thune. “These proposed regulations don’t address the real problem—eradicating white nose syndrome. The long-eared bat’s population decline is due to the white-nose syndrome and is not related to current forest management practices. If FWS and the Interior Department are serious about protecting both the northern long-eared bat and the Black Hills National Forest—it will repeal its proposed listing, focus on addressing white-nose syndrome, and continue active forest management, including timber sales.”

“The proposed listing of the long-eared bat as endangered and corresponding guidance provides a significant and unnecessary distraction from the real issues at hand,” said Rep. Noem. “While White Nose Syndrome is a species-threatening disease that has jeopardized northern long-eared bat populations in many states, the proposal focuses primarily on habitat – a non-factor according to many researchers. The misguided proposal not only avoids the primary cause of the problem, but also restricts active forest management, endangering more than 1,500 jobs in the Black Hills area. Any effort to preserve the species should focus on the disease.”

“The restrictions proposed by the FWS are an eminent threat to forest products companies and sustainable forest management in the Black Hills, and will do nothing to address the disease that is the sole cause for concern with this species,” said Ben Wudtke, Forest Programs Manager of the Black Hills Forest Resource Association. “These restrictions on forest management are proposed despite acknowledgement by the FWS that timber harvest activities have not posed any threat to this species and may actually improve habitat used by the long-eared bat. It is imperative the FWS change their interim guidance to reflect the benefits of active forest management for long-eared bat habitat in western forests.”

Listing the long-eared bat as endangered and the ensuing regulatory restrictions on forest management could effectively end active management in the Black Hills National Forest, which will cause declining forest health, increase the likelihood of large scale wildfires, and severely impact the timber industry in the Black Hills. Thune and Noem’s letter cites the more than 1,500 jobs that contribute over $119 million to local economies in the Black Hills that will be jeopardized if these regulations are put into place.