Veto override fails on bat endangered species listing
October 5, 2023
SUNDANCE - U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis and all members of the Senate Western Caucus on which she serves as chairman, as well as U.S. Senator John Barrasso, voted to override President Joe Biden's veto of the resolution that questioned the listing of the northern long-eared bat as an endangered species.
In total, 47 senators voted for and 45 against, failing to meet the two-thirds majority required to overturn the veto.
"The Biden administration's heavy-handed interpretations and ongoing abuse of the ESA continues to punish private property owners rather than empowering them to be partners in species recovery," Lummis said in a press release after the vote. "Listing these species will do little to recover their populations and instead strangle property owners with confusing red tape while discouraging voluntary efforts that have already greatly benefitted both the northern long-eared bat and lesser prairie chicken."
Senate Joint Resolution 24 (S.J. Res 24) provided for congressional disapproval of the listing and states that Congress, "disapproves the rule submitted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service...and such rule shall have no force of effect."
The resolution passed the Senate 51-49 in May and the House 220-209 in July. It was then presented to the President for his signature. However, President Biden exercised his veto power on September 26.
In a statement, Biden noted that the final rule offers protections to the bat because of the impact of white-nose syndrome – a deadly disease due to which it now faces extinction. The disease has now spread across an estimated 79% of the bat's range and is expected to affect 100% by the end of the decade.
"Data indicate white-nose syndrome has caused estimated declines of 97 to 100 percent in affected northern long-eared bat populations," stated Biden in a press release.
The President referred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's "rigorous review" of scientific and commercial information about threats and ongoing conservation efforts.
"S.J. Res. 24 would overturn a science-based rulemaking that follows the requirements of the law, and thereby undermines the ESA. Bats are critical to healthy, functioning ecosystems and contribute at least $3 billion annually to the United States agriculture economy through pest control and pollination," he stated. "If enacted, S.J. Res. 24 would undermine America's proud wildlife conservation traditions and risk extinction of the species. Therefore, I am vetoing this resolution."
The northern long-eared bat was officially listed as "endangered" in May, though this was originally set to take place on January 30.
However, this was delayed until the end of March to address concerns over the impact that the listing might have on infrastructure projects across the bat's territory.
Lummis and Senator Shelley Moore (R-WV), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, as well as 11 additional senators, intervened when the decision to upgrade the bat's status was announced.
In a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they pointed out that the original rule from 2015 focused in on, "Prohibitions deemed necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the threatened species, instead of applying blanket prohibitions that obstruct economic growth and development."
The letter expresses concern that the 2015 rule will be invalidated, which in turn will leave "countless infrastructure project consultations in limbo."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged in response that the upgraded listing will nullify the part of the previous "threatened" rule that tailors prohibitions and exceptions to those necessary and advisable for the species.
"We recognize that the change to endangered status will result in questions and concerns about establishing compliance under the Act for forestry, wind energy, infrastructure and many other projects within the 37 states that comprise the range of the northern long-eared bat," states the Federal Register announcement. "We are committed to working proactively with stakeholders to conserve and recover northern long-eared bats while reducing impacts to landowners, where possible and practicable."
During the two extra months provided by the delay, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked to finalize tools that would help guide project managers through the consultation process.
A species is considered to warrant listing as endangered if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range or is a threatened species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, white-nose syndrome has been the foremost stressor on the bat for more than a decade, and there is no known mitigation or treatment strategy.
This story was published on October 5, 2023.