Biden vetoes resolution to remove bat that calls SC home from endangered list

President Joe Biden used his veto powers on Tuesday striking down a pair of joint resolutions...
President Joe Biden used his veto powers on Tuesday striking down a pair of joint resolutions that would remove endangered species protections from two animals.(KGWN)
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 11:50 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (WCSC) - President Joe Biden used his veto powers on Tuesday striking down a pair of joint resolutions that would remove endangered species protections from two animals.

S.J. Res. 24 would have removed Endangered Species Act protections from the northern long-eared bat.

Northern long-eared bats were first listed as threatened in 2015 before being reclassified as endangered on March 31, 2023.

“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,” Biden said in his message to the Senate. “If enacted, S.J. Res. 24 would undermine America’s proud wildlife conservation traditions and risk extinction of the species.”

The bat was once found in Oconee, Pickens and Greenville counties and was at one point the most common of the mouse-eared bats in the mountains during the summer and fall through the 1990s.

The number of bats found in the mountains, however, has been on the decline since a disease called White-nose syndrome was confirmed in the state, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources officials said.

White-nose syndrome is a disease caused by a fungus that affects hibernating bats. The fungus looks like white fuzz on bats’ faces and attacks the bats’ bare skin while they’re hibernating.

The fungus can cause changes in bats that can cause them to become more active and burn up the fat needed to survive the winter, according to the White-nose syndrome response team.

In 2016, Northern long-eared bats were discovered at Palmetto Bluff Conservancy in Beaufort County. Wildlife officials at the time believed if the bats were active along the coast during winter it would help prevent the spread of WNS.

Evidence discovered in 2017 pointed towards a breeding population after five bats were found in Charleston and Berkeley counties.

Wildlife officials discovered two juvenile bats and an adult female that was producing milk in Francis Marion National Forest. They also discovered two adult males.

DNR staff were able to capture pregnant bats in 2019 and had captured 33 bats in the coastal plain with 20 being found in Francis Marion National Forest.

Scientists at the time suggested that if the bats were able to forage on the South Carolina coast in the winter it would reduce the mortality from WNS.

A species assessment from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suggests that no habitats for the bat will remain after 2050.

The northern long-eared bat is one of 14 bat species that call the Palmetto State home.

The others are:

  • Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
  • Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis)
  • Eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis)
  • Eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii)
  • Evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis)
  • Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus)
  • Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)
  • Northern yellow bat (Lasiurus intermedius)
  • Rafinesque’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii)
  • Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)
  • Southeastern bat (Myotis austroriparius)
  • Seminole bat (Lasiurus seminolus)
  • Tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus)

Biden also vetoed S.J. Res. 9 which would have removed protections for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.

“The lesser prairie-chicken serves as an indicator for healthy grasslands and prairies, making the species an important measure of the overall health of America’s grasslands,” Biden said.

The bird is traditionally found in the Great Plains.