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Protection of Northern Long-eared Bats

Protective Measures Required for Northern Long-eared Bats When Projects Occur within Occupied Habitat

Development and forest management projects within habitat occupied by the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) should be reviewed for potential adverse impacts to the species. See map of known locations on right. Protective requirements vary depending on the type of project proposed.

If your project is located in any of the occupied towns indicated on the map you can obtain further guidance by contacting your regional DEC Office of Environmental Permits or you can assess the potential for harmful impacts using the following self-evaluation guide.

Please note: What follows does not address the operation of wind turbine projects but may be helpful in assessing the potential for adverse impacts to NLEB during construction of wind energy facilities.

NLEB Self-evaluation

  1. Are NLEB known to be present in your area? You may be able to rule out their presence by referring to the town-level information provided in the map on this page. The online Environmental Resource Mapper allows you to identify where in a given town the bats may be found.
    1. If yes, contact the NY Natural Heritage Program (leaves DEC website) for the most precise information available and then proceed to step 2.
    2. If "no" then stop the self-evaluation. It's not likely your project will harm NLEB. Since bats can turn up in almost any forested area DEC still recommends that you leave any snags and cavity trees (PDF) standing, but this is voluntary.
  2. Does the report from the NY Natural Heritage Program indicate you are within 0.25 miles of a hibernation site or 150 ft of a known roost tree?
    1. If yes, you should stop the self-evaluation and contact your regional DEC Office of Environmental Permits.
    2. If no, proceed to step 3.
  3. Tree removal is the primary action that might harm bats that are on your property. Can you cut all trees necessary for your project during the hibernation season when bats are living underground (Nov 1-Mar 31 in most of NY, Dec 1-Feb 28 in Suffolk County)?
    1. If no, proceed to step 4.
    2. If yes, stop the self-evaluation. You are unlikely to harm NLEB. Since bats can turn up in almost any forested area DEC still recommends that you leave any snags and cavity trees (PDF) standing, but this is voluntary.
  4. Will the project result in a change in land use?
    1. For most development projects, the answer is yes. Contact your regional DEC Office of Environmental Permits for project-specific guidance. Typical recommendations include:
      • Leaving uncut all known roost trees, and any trees within 150 feet of a summer occurrence.
      • Leaving uncut all snags and cavity trees (PDF) unless their removal is necessary for protection of human life or property.
      • If bats are observed flying from a tree that has been cut, stop activities immediately and contact your regional DEC office.
    2. If the answer is no, proceed to step 5.
    3. If you are not sure whether the project will result in a change in land use contact your regional DEC Office of Environmental Permits.
  5. Any tree that poses an imminent threat to life or property may be cut at any time. Aside from those, can you leave all snags and cavity trees (PDF) uncut?
    1. If no, contact your regional DEC Office of Environmental Permits for further guidance.
    2. If yes, proceed with cutting. If bats are observed flying from a tree that has been cut, stop activities immediately and contact your regional DEC Office of Environmental Permits for guidance.

Guidance from DEC

In New York, all federally threatened species that occur in the State are also afforded threatened status under the New York Endangered Species Law and its implementing regulations.

The Department concurs with the conclusion of the USFWS that the NLEB population decline is not the result of habitat loss. Because the State endangered species law and its implementing regulations require consideration of impacts to occupied habitat of listed species, however, the Department requires additional protections. These consist mainly of conditions placed on tree cutting in order to protect any bats that may be roosting in the trees in the vicinity of their hibernacula and documented summer occurrences. Therefore, in addition to the requirements of USFWS Final 4(d) Rule for the NLEB, projects located in occupied habitat must comply with additional protective guidance.

Forest Management and Projects that Result in a Change in Land Use

Projects that are intended to convert forested habitat to other uses have a greater impact on NLEB than projects that allow for the regeneration and retention of forest habitat on the landscape. This is because even though trees are not currently a limiting resource for NLEB, the species also uses forest habitat of all types for feeding. NLEB will use regenerating forest for foraging habitat within the same year that cuts are implemented. However, when forest habitat is lost from the landscape because the land is converted to another use, these areas no longer provide any benefit to NLEB.

A project maintains the existing land use if forest habitat or a hibernation site is being managed to perpetuate its existing use by bats (e.g., sustainable forestry, forest maintenance, cave or hibernacula maintenance).

In contrast, a project will result in a change in land use when any portion of forest habitat or a hibernation site is converted to another form that bats will use in a reduced capacity (e.g., most development).

Further Guidance

To be eligible for a permit to take NLEB, the project proponent must be able to demonstrate a net conservation benefit to NLEB as a result of their action. For information on how to apply, contact your regional DEC permit administrator.

Snag and cavity trees, as referred to here, are defined under DEC Program Policy ONR-DLF-2 Retention on State Forests (PDF).

The guidance on this page is only intended to address NLEB protective measures. Additional regulations may apply to the land, including wetland and stream protection regulations and protective measures for other federal or state endangered species that may be present. Regional DEC staff in Division of Environmental Permits can help determine if any of these restrictions apply to the property and project in question.

Background on NLEB Listing

NLEB were listed as "threatened" by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the federal Endangered Species Act on April 2, 2015.

The USFWS has the authority to write special rules and exemptions for federally threatened species under section 4(d) of the federal Endangered Species Act. On January 14, 2016, USFWS issued just such a "4(d) rule" for NLEB. The rule imposes a number of specific conservation measures. Purposefully harming NLEB remains prohibited except in defense of human health and safety.

Most incidental take (defined as unintended impacts to the species from otherwise legal activities), however, is allowed without the need for a federal permit, with the following specific exceptions:

  • All incidental take within hibernacula is prohibited.
  • Incidental take resulting from tree removal within a 0.25 mile of a known occupied northern long-eared bat hibernacula or within 150 feet of a known occupied maternity roost tree during the pup-rearing season (June 1 through July 31) is prohibited.

On April 27, 2016, USFWS announced its determination that it would not designate critical habitat for the NLEB because "Northern long-eared bat summer habitat is not limited or in short supply and summer habitat loss is not a range-wide threat to the species."