10.31.09

Leahy Provision Will Double Funds For Efforts Targeting Epidemic In Northeast’s Bats

Bill Clears Congress Late Thursday, President Will Sign

. . . Vermont is latest epicenter of ‘white nose syndrome’ scourge

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Oct. 29) – The U.S. Senate Thursday night passed a bill that includes emergency help authored by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to address a disease that is decimating bat populations in Vermont and the Northeast.

Leahy secured $1.9 million to buttress the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s response to the puzzling outbreak of “white nose syndrome” in Northeast bat populations.  Leahy’s provision, in the annual budget bill for the Department of the Interior and other agencies, doubles funding for investigating and devising solutions to the epidemic.  Leahy is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a conferee on the Interior Appropriations Bill.

Outbreaks of white nose syndrome in bats were first noticed three years ago in Upstate New York.  By last winter Vermont was at the epicenter of the crisis.  State officials in Vermont estimate that the outbreak may have killed as many as 400,000 bats in the Green Mountain State in the last two winters.  Bats play a crucial role in the ecosystem by pollinating plants and crops and controlling flying insects like mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile Virus, and are predators of insects that damage agricultural crops.  

Leahy said, “The loss of our bat population threatens significant disruption of the ecological balance.  The ripple effects are difficult to predict, and the damage could be extraordinary.  It is easy to under-appreciate and misunderstand the crucial role that bats play in the ecosystem.”

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