Leahy Announces Funds To Combat Deadly Bat Disease, White-Nose Syndrome

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WEDNESDAY, July 1, 2015) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Wednesday announced $35,645 in funding to help counter the spread of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in Vermont, a disease that has devastated bat populations, posing a significant ecological threat across New England and the country.

Leahy said:  “White-nose syndrome has wiped out bat populations throughout much of the eastern United States.  In my home state of Vermont, some bat species have declined by as much as 90-95%.  We need continued efforts to combat WNS, and this is another step forward.”

The grant, awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was one of 35 grants totaling just under $1 million to combat the disease, which is characterized by a white, cold-loving fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) plaguing hibernating bat populations since it was first discovered in New York in 2006.  Nationally, the grants will be used to support research, monitor bat populations and develop best practices for land management agencies and other partners to slow the spread of WNS.  The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department will use the grant to assist in important national research efforts and to work toward the recovery of Vermont’s five threatened and endangered bat species affected by white-nose syndrome, including  the northern long-eared bat, a species so devastated by WNS that it was recently listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act. 

Leahy, the senior-most member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a member of its subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, which writes the annual funding bill for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was an early leader on this issue, raising the issue in hearings, forging budget actions addressing WNS, and leading multiple letters to the Administration urging significant investments to further understand and better fight the disease.

Scott Darling, wildlife biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Department and a member said: “These federal funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are critical to our effort to conserve bats in Vermont. Without such funds, we could not conduct much of the good work we are doing now to save these species.” 

Bats are vital players in agricultural cycles.  Each year a single colony of bats consumes hundreds large numbers of crop-destroying and disease-carrying pests.  Nationally, this free pest control service is estimated to be worth billions of dollars.  Additional information about WNS is available at www.whitenosesyndrome.org.

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