Vermont: Coalition of Conservation, Farming, and Anti-Pesticide Groups Urge Congress for Funding to Save Bats
Conservation, organic-agriculture, anti-pesticide and food-safety groups joined forces yesterday to ask Congress to appropriate $10.8 million for research and management of the bat-killing disease known as white-nose syndrome, which has reached epidemic proportions in the eastern United States. The groups also urged passage of the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act, a bill to address wildlife health crises like white-nose syndrome. The disease has already killed more than 1 million bats from six species and has been found in 17 states and four Canadian provinces. The disease-causing fungus, which was discovered by scientists after the bat illness first appeared, has also been found on three other species of bat and in two other states, including western Oklahoma.
“White-nose syndrome is a wildlife crisis of unprecedented proportions,” said Mollie Matteson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, which spearheaded yesterday’s congressional letter. “Left unchecked, the loss of bats is likely to have cascading effects on both the human and natural worlds for generations to come.”
Insect-eating bats play an important economic role in agriculture and timber production. A study published earlier this year in the journal Science found that the value of bats’ pest-control services to agricultural operations in the United States ranges from $3.7 billion to $53 billion per year.
Since 2006, the newly emergent white-nose syndrome has spread across the Northeast and now is infecting and killing bats from Nova Scotia to the Midwest and South. States and provinces reporting either the disease itself or the presence of the disease-causing fungus are: Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec.
“Bats are friends to farmers — particularly organic farmers,” Matteson said. “They eat thousands of tons of insects each year, and without them growers will need to use more pesticides or risk more crop losses. American agriculture can’t afford to lose these valuable bats.”
Earlier this spring, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) proposed an appropriation of $10.8 million in 2012 for white-nose syndrome research, coordination and management. This figure is what the Department of the Interior reports spending since 2007 on responding to the bat disease. Bat scientists and agency biologists widely agree that lack of funding has seriously hampered a swift, effective response to the disease.
Read the rest of the article here: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2011/white-nose-syndrome-06-01-2011.html