Bill would create federal plan to respond to wildlife emergencies and diseases
By: Jessica Beym, Gloucester County Times Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today introduced legislation to create a federal plan for responding to wildlife disease emergencies. Lautenberg’s legislation would help to better understand and address wildlife diseases like the mysterious and deadly white-nose syndrome (WNS) that is decimating bat populations in New Jersey and throughout the Northeast Region.
“We must ensure that the Fish and Wildlife Service and environmental scientists have every tool available to them as they fight devastating wildlife diseases like white-nose syndrome,” Lautenberg said. “Bats play a vital role in our ecosystem by preying on insects that destroy crops and carry disease. There is an urgent need to research this problem so that bat populations in New Jersey and throughout the country are not decimated. Without a quick response, white-nose syndrome could have a ripple effect that hurts the economy, environment, and public health.”
The “Wildlife Disease Emergency Act” focuses much-needed resources and attention on diseases like White Nose Syndrome. Lautenberg’s bill would provide the Secretary of the Interior with the authority to declare wildlife disease emergencies, establish a dedicated Wildlife Disease Emergency Fund to understand and address disease emergencies, and provide for a coordinated response across state and federal agencies.
White-nose syndrome is named for white fungal growth around the noses and on the bodies of affected animals. It first appeared in caves near Albany, New York in February 2006, and was confirmed in New Jersey in 2009. Since bats are slow breeders and produce only one pup per year on average, scientists fear the disease could cause the extinction of many bat species. Since its discovery in 2006, white-nose syndrome has killed more than a million bats in eastern North America and has spread rapidly across the United States and into Canada.
The legislation is supported by wildlife advocacy groups, including The Wildlife Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, Pollinator Partnership, American Bird Conservancy, The Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, Animal Welfare Institute, EcoHealth Alliance, and Bat Conservation International.