Feds Step In To Coordinate Bat Conservation Efforts

Just in time for the annual North American bat summit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had some good news — there's finally a plan for how to fight white-nose syndrome, which is killing hundreds of thousands of bats across the continent.

The plan coordinates more than 50 state and federal agencies to study etiology and epidemiology, disease surveillance and more. White-nose has spread through 11 states since its discovery four years ago and is expected to reach the midwest and west this winter.

Alison Whitlock, northeast coordinator for white-nose for the FWS, said the public will have 60 days to comment on the plan, which creates several working groups. Find out more here.

Federal funding is also on the rise — earlier this month, federal agencies announced $1.9 million in grant funding across several programs. Lawmakers have already asked for even more funds in next year's budget, according to Mylea Bayless, a conservationist with Bat Conservation International.

Private groups, including the National Speleological Society and BCI, are also funding graduate students' research into behavioral patterns, genetics and even partnerships with mycologists and veterinarians.

Nina Fascione, executive director of BCI, visited Congress earlier this month to press for more bat research, and said members of both parties were equally concerned. Before returning to the bat group in March, Fascione worked with Defenders of Wildlife for several years, where lobbied on behalf of the grey wolf, one of the most controversial subjects in wildlife biology. She says bats are totally different.

"Bats are a non-partisan issue," she said.