Bats play an essential role in healthy ecosystems and should be protected.
These often misunderstood animals -- the world's only mammals that truly fly -- can consume up to one-third of their own body weight in insects that might otherwise transmit diseases or threaten our forests and crops.
Unfortunately, an emerging disease is killing North America's bats. The mysterious white-nose syndrome has already claimed the lives of an estimated one million bats, yet scientists still know very little about how to stop -- or even slow -- the spread of this terrible disease.
Help save our bats! Urge your U.S. Representative and Senators to support vital steps to fight white-nose syndrome.
As a supporter of Defenders of Wildlife and someone who understands the important role that bats play in healthy ecosystems and natural pest control, I strongly urge you to take decisive action to save North America's bats from a deadly disease that has already killed an estimated one million of these ecologically important animals.
White-nose syndrome has swept nine eastern states over the last two winters, killing bats at hibernating sites at rates approaching 100 percent. At this point, the disease shows no signs of slowing its spread across the country, wiping out bat populations along the way.
The implications for ecosystem health, agriculture and forestry -- and even public health -- are potentially enormous.
The survival of several species is at stake. Several species of North American bats are already listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. White-nose syndrome could precipitate the demise of several species of bat in the United States before scientists have a chance to determine the cause and a possible cure for white nose syndrome.
Unchecked, white nose syndrome could also result in the loss of crucial, economically important ecological services freely provided to humans by bats, and the increased costs to farmers, other businesses, and various levels of government, if bats are no longer present to keep insect populations under control.
The most urgent need for addressing this crisis is increased funding for research, coordination, and management. Multiple federal and state agencies as well as private institutions are trying to cope with white-nose syndrome; none have the resources necessary to deal with a threat of this magnitude.
As a member of Congress, your leadership is urgently needed to address the threat of white-nose syndrome to America's wildlife heritage, agriculture and forestry, and public health. To deal with this urgent threat, I urge you to make available funding for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to...
* Appoint a full-time white-nose syndrome coordinator to work with federal and state agencies and private institutions responding to white-nose syndrome, and to be the central point of information and contact on the disease.
* Elevate departmental focus on this issue; make it a top priority for research and species protection efforts.
* Establish a plan for controlling or minimizing the spread of the syndrome, based on current knowledge.
* Identify funding needs for a coordinated response to white-nose syndrome, including coordinator position, research and management.
* Examine the possible tools for implementing greater protective measures for white-nose syndrome-affected and non-affected bat populations, including the use of federal statutes such as the Endangered Species Act.
* Implement an education and outreach campaign for cave recreationists, in coordination with caving and speleological groups. Explain why staying out of all caves and mines in the eastern United States is critically important until scientists better understand the means of white-nose syndrome transmission.
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