Scrapbook Photo 02/26/24 - 91 New Stories - REAL Environmental & Conservation Leadership In PA:
Friends Of Allegheny Wilderness Advocates Cancellation Of Tracy Ridge Burn Project To Protect Bat

In a letter to Forest Supervisor Jamie Davidson, the nonprofit wilderness advocacy organization Friends of Allegheny Wilderness is asking the U.S. Forest Service to cancel a prescribed burn project in the proposed Tracy Ridge Wilderness Area in the Allegheny National Forest, out of concern for the imperiled northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis).

The controlled burn project, which if implemented would affect around 2,000 acres in the southern end of the proposed wilderness area, was approved in June of 2021.

As part of the agency’s decision notice approving the project, it was acknowledged that the project would cause direct mortality to northern long-eared bats, as well as degrade their habitat.

Northern long-eared bats live in mature interior forests and forage along wooded hillsides and ridgelines. Because of this, they are vulnerable to forest fragmentation.

In March of 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced their proposal to move the northern long-eared bat from its current status of “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Populations of the northern long-eared bat have dropped precipitously in recent years due to a phenomenon known as “white-nose syndrome.”

White-nose syndrome, caused by a fungus originating in Europe, also affects 11 other North American bat species. Biologists consider the fungus to be one of the most severe wildlife disease outbreaks in history.

As bat numbers dwindle, insect pest problems increase — with the potential to cause billions of dollars worth of agricultural damage.

“The proposed Tracy Ridge Wilderness Area provides some of the highest-quality wildlife habitat anywhere in the Allegheny National Forest,” noted Kirk Johnson, executive director for FAW. “Given what we now know about the perilous condition of the northern long-eared bat, and the measures the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are taking to address the issue, the controlled burn project at Tracy Ridge should quite obviously be canceled at this point.”

“From the standpoint of both people and wildlife, the highest use for the proposed Tracy Ridge Wilderness Area, that will provide the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest period of time — as we and many others have said for decades now — is for the U.S. Congress to add the entire 9,705-acre area to America’s National Wilderness Preservation System as soon as possible, to be forever protected from all forms of development,” Johnson concluded.

Click Here for October, 2021 FAW comments on proposed controlled burn.

Click Here for copy of June 11, 2022 FAW letter.

For more information on programs, initiatives, upcoming events, and how you can get involved, visit the Friends Of Allegheny Wilderness website.  Follow them on Facebook.   Click Here to sign up for regular email updates.

Friends seeks to foster an appreciation of wilderness values and benefits, and to work with local communities to ensure that increased wilderness protection is a priority of the stewardship of the Allegheny National Forest in Elk, Forest, McKean and Warren counties.

(Photo: Mature interior forest cover in Proposed Tracy Ridge Wilderness Area by Kirk Johnson, FAW; Northern long eared bat, Friends of Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.)

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[Posted: June 13, 2022]


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