The United States is home to several threatened and endangered bat species that are protected under federal and/or state law. If regulations surrounding bat and bat habitats are not up to standard, projects and go through lengthy and costly delays. Understanding how these laws may affect a project not only helps keep it on track, but also helps minimize impacts to bat populations.
But Why are Bats so Important?
Bats are critical for pollination, pest control, and seed dispersal in their native ecosystems. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), bats eat enough pests that save more than $1 billion per year in crop damage and pesticide costs in the corn industry alone. Insect-consuming bats save more than $3 billion across all agricultural production.
Other bat species feed on nectar and, much like a butterfly or bee, provide pollination for a variety of plants like peaches, cloves, and bananas. They are the sole pollinator for agave, which is an anit-infalmmatory and antiseptic plant best known for being a key ingredient in tequila.
A third food source for bats is fruit, making bats an important part of seed dispersal. Fruit-eating bats can account for as much as 95% of the seed dispersal responsible for early growth in recently cleared rainforests.
Unfortunately, bat populations are declining across the globe. Part of this decline is from human activity that results in habitat loss and disruption, causing the need for regulations around tree clearing and other protections to safeguard bat habitats.
How Can I Help Minimize Habitat Disruption?
Bat species vary from state-to-state, as do the regulations meant to protect them. Adhering to the potential tree clearing season in your area that is recommended by the USFWS can assist in preventing a further decline in bat populations. While most laws surrounding threatened and endangered species are established at the state and federal levels, local ordinances may also list requirements regarding tree clearing and habitat protection.
For a more direct approach, identifying and preserving any trees on a project site that are designated as bat habitat during the planning phase helps minimize potential impacts to this species and their habitat.
The best way to approach habitat preservation is to coordinate with project partners to ensure a project is designed and implemented in ways that minimize impacts to natural resources, including bat habitats. State environmental offices and departments of natural resources, federal offices such as the USFWS, and local government agencies will have the latest information about endangered bat species and any regulations surrounding them. Many Davey Resource Group offices can also help determine the best practices for habitat preservation for your project. To learn more, contact your local DRG office.