NEWS FROM THE WEST Northern Long- eared Bat

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Northern Longeared Bat
Potential listing and survey
FALL 2014
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PV Solar & Avian
Photo-voltaic solar panels and
effects on avian species
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Greater SageGrouse
Critical Habitat
and Conservation
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Solving Natural Resource Problems
Potential Listing and Survey Methods
By Tim Sichmeller and Jeff Gruver, WEST biologists
The northern long-eared bat (Myotis
septentrionalis; NLEB) is a small bat
in the genus Myotis, similar to the little
brown bat (M. lucifugus) and the federally endangered Indiana bat (M. sodalis). NLEBs are found in 39 states from
Maine to Montana, and were historically most common in the Northeast and
Midwest. The NLEB was proposed to
be listed as threatened or endangered
under the Endangered Species Act
(ESA) in October of 2013, and a final
decision on listing is expected to be
made by April 2, 2015 by the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
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NLEB is the first bat species to be proposed for
listing under the ESA due to white-nose syndrome (WNS), an infectious mycosis that has
led to the loss of 5.7 to 6.7 million bats since
its discovery in upstate New York in late 2006.
In the Northeast U.S., NLEB populations are
estimated to have declined by approximately
99% due to WNS. This unprecedented level
of mortality and the steady spread of WNS
westward was the driving factor in the proposed listing of NLEB by USFWS.
During hibernation, NLEB and other similar bat species are most at risk of WNS. Like
most species of small insect-eating bats, NLEB
spend the winter hibernating in caves, mines,
or other similar structures, collectively referred
to as hibernacula. Hibernacula typically contain several species of bats, and may harbor
100’s of thousands of hibernating individuals.
Mating occurs in the fall in and near hibernacula before actual hibernation begins. In spring,
the bats arouse, and exit the hibernacula to
migrate to summering areas. For NLEB, migration distances between winter and summer
areas of 180 miles are known, though most are
thought to move shorter distances. During the
summer months, female NLEB form maternity colonies in the cavities, crevices or bark of
live or dead trees. Pregnant females give birth
to their young in these colonies with upwards
of 60 bats in one colony. Young bats spend 3 –
5 weeks with their mothers in roost trees until
they are able to fly and forage on their own.
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Once young are able to forage for themselves, maternity colonies begin to disperse and the bats begin their fall migration towards their hibernating sites.
WEST performs a variety of types of studies for NLEB and Indiana bats within their range. A common type of study involves
surveys designed to determine if one or both of these species are present in or near a specific development, and if so, how are the
species using the landscape relative to the development’s footprint. Typical methods used to establish presence or absence involve “eavesdropping” on bats that are actively foraging in an area and use species-specific vocalization patterns to learn which
species are present. Another useful method involves the use of fine mesh nets, called mist-nets, to capture bats. If a NLEB or
other species of interest are captured, miniature radio-transmitters can be attached to the bat so that WEST can track the bats
to locate roosts, describe the habitat the bat is foraging in, and count the number of individuals in the maternity colonies using
the roost trees.
If listed under the Endangered Species Act, the Act will prohibit any person or entity from “take” of the species (which can be
broadly and generally defined as actions that result in harm, harassment or death of individuals of a protected species). Therefore, if NLEB or another protected species is present at a development, that development may be at risk for take. Because of the
biological and ecological similarity between Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats, developers can expect that many of the
same issues that have been encountered with Indiana bats will also arise when considering NLEB. For example, tree clearing
during summer may lead to take of Indiana bats if they are roosting in a felled tree. The similarity between the two species
also means that many of the same remedies and strategies that are used to address risks to Indiana bats will also be useful when
addressing risks to NLEB. For example, tree clearing in winter when the bats are hibernating is one way to avoid take of both
Indiana bats and NLEB. Another avenue that may be available to a project whose otherwise lawful activities may lead to unavoidable take of NLEB is an Incidental Take Permit (ITP), which can be issued by the USFWS. Issuance of an ITP requires
that the project develop a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that details, among other things, what specific actions have been
or will be taken to avoid and minimize take.
If the NLEB becomes listed under the Endangered Species Act, project owners, developers and operators with projects within
the range of the species should consider engaging with the USFWS about potential impacts and strategies to avoid impacts.
WEST welcomes Karl
Kosiuch, Ph.D. to our team
Karl joins WEST as a Biologist and Project Manager in our Laramie,
Wyoming office. Karl received his Bachelor of Science degree from
East Stroudsburg University, a Master of Science from Texas A&M
University, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Biology from Kansas
State University. Prior to joining WEST, Karl worked as a senior
biologist and project manager at Tetra Tech for 8 years. Karl’s
graduate research focused on bird demography, and he conducted a
large scale cowbird removal experiment at the Konza Prairie
Biological Station in Kansas for his PhD research.
Professionally, Karl has worked at the forefront of wildlife conservation and energy development including oil
and gas, wind, solar, and transmission. He has worked across a broad range of sensitive species including lesser
prairie-chicken, American burying beetle, whooping crane, black-capped vireo, desert tortoise, and northern
long-eared bat. Karl’s regulatory experience extends to NEPA documents, Eagle Conservation Plans, Habitat
Conservation Plans, and state and county permitting for energy facilities. In addition, Karl has provided
expert testimony regarding wildlife impacts at county and utility commission hearings, and has presented at
14 industry-related conferences on wildlife issues.
By Kristen Chodachek, WEST biologist
With the increased demand from the Nation for
energy production from renewable resources, wind
energy has become an important power source. With
this expansion it is important to be proactive rather
than reactive when dealing with environmental
compliance requirements. Regulatory drivers include
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Endangered Species
Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and State
protected species and wildlife laws.
Adequate training, reporting, and documentation
can reduce the likelihood of compliance issues, and
in extreme cases, enforcement actions from wildlife
agencies. Strong compliance programs are necessary
to avoid and/or reduce risk associated with federal
wildlife acts and state wildlife laws for the life of the
WEST has been a leader in post-construction avian
use and bat mortality monitoring surveys, bald and
golden eagle surveys, whooping crane monitoring,
and other sensitive species surveys nationwide since
1994. Based on this expertise, WEST can assist
with the development of management tools to further
the longevity and financial success of wind energy
production. This includes developing operations
wildlife reporting systems, cost-effective long-term
monitoring/reporting, and site-specific wildlife
issues awareness training for facilities operations
and management teams. Wildlife awareness training
materials may include representative modules for Tier
4 post-construction monitoring, modules for protected
wildlife species, visual training materials, videos, and
on-site training.
The WEST team is an internationally recognized
leader in the study of wind energy-wildlife interactions
and is prepared to meet your needs related to wildlife
operations and maintenance training.
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By Paul Rabie, WEST biometrician
Energy production from photo-voltaic (PV) solar panels is increasing rapidly due in part to a
60% drop in the cost of PV solar panels since 2011. Here in the United States, Power Purchase
Agreement prices for PV power were much higher than for wind-generated power in 2008
but more recently, PV and wind power are nearly at cost-parity. According to the Solar Energy
Industries Association, there are 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed or contracted utility scale PV
facilities with another 28 GW of new and un-contracted projects announced. Undoubtedly,
PV solar will comprise a significant portion of the new electric generation facilities over the
next several years.
As energy production from PV solar facilities increases, concerns regarding impacts to avian
wildlife may become elevated. Developers, government agencies, and consultants are all
grappling with questions that are familiar from the wind industry: How do we accurately
assess the direct and indirect impacts? How large are the impacts? Which species are being
affected? Is there anything we can do to reduce the impacts? Should we be thinking about
impact reduction before we know the extent and significance of the impacts? WEST is helping
to answer these questions as advisors to the solar industry and other stakeholders, in developing
reasonable approaches to assessing impacts through site screening and site characterization
studies (Tier 1 and 2 in Wind Energy Guidelines terminology), baseline and post-construction
studies (Tier 3 and 4) where appropriate, in development of other risk assessment approaches,
and in development of Bird and Bat Conservation strategies.
There are still very limited data available from which to draw conclusions, but WEST’s
comprehensive synthesis of the available data suggests that most birds reported at facilities will
be song birds and that impact to water-associated birds is likely to be variable depending on the
size, location, and types of the facilities. However, based on the limited information available,
the impacts to songbirds may be very small when considering the populations of those species
and evidence that a significant portion of the fatalities might be from causes unrelated to the
solar arrays (ie. background mortality). Habitat modifications are of a primary concern, because
PV solar facilities may use 5 to 8 acres of land per megawatt of capacity. As with wind, there
may be a premium on proper siting of the projects in a way that minimizes impacts. WEST
has developed an assortment of tools and approaches for siting projects utilizing existing habitat
and other information early on in the process. But there are important differences between
PV and wind, and WEST’s integration of ecological and statistical expertise positions us to
help developers efficiently address the ecological conditions that are specific to solar energy
production. For example, the sheer extent of land that is surveyed at solar energy facilities means
that search protocols for PV solar facilities need to be especially efficient to keep monitoring
costs at reasonable levels. The size of the search areas also means that natural background avian
mortality can become a substantial component of fatality estimates, and WEST is working to
design efficient monitoring programs that can account for background mortality. WEST is also
exploring the use of radar and other technologies as part of detect and deter systems should
there be a need in extenuating circumstances to reduce wildlife impacts at certain facilities for
targeted groups of birds.
This is an exciting time for PV solar developers, and WEST is pleased to be in a position
to help navigate wildlife-related challenges that accompany this opportunity.
You can view WEST authored
publications at;
Clement, M. J., Murray, K. L., Solick, D.
I. and Gruver, J. C. 2014.
The effect of call libraries and
acoustic filters on the identification
of bat echolocation. Ecology and
Evolution. doi: 10.1002/ece3.1201
Nielson, R. M., Mcmanus, L., Rintz, T.,
Mcdonald, L. L., Murphy, R. K., Howe,
W. H. and Good, R. E. 2014.
Monitoring abundance of golden
eagles in the western United States.
The Journal of Wildlife Management,
78: 721–730. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.704
Nielson, R. M., and L. McManus. 2014.
A survey of golden eagles (Aquila
chrysaetos) in the western U.S.: Midwinter 2014. Western EcoSystems
Erickson, W.P., M.M Wolfe, K.J. Bay,
D.H. Johnson, and J.L. Gehring. 2014.
A Comprehensive Analysis of SmallPasserine Fatalities from Collision
with Turbines at Wind Energy
Facilities. PLoS ONE 9(9): e107491.
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Managers throughout the west are trying to
conserve GRSG populations by implementing
numerous conservation measures to maintain
and enhance GRSG populations. These
conservation measures include prioritizing
areas for conservation, implementing energy
development thresholds, and identifying
research needs.
Understanding and
implementing conservation measures such
as these are important to GRSG population
WEST has supported various client needs by
assisting in designing and sighting projects to
avoid disturbance to important GRSG habitats
and by helping locate projects within unsuitable
or low quality habitats to minimize direct and
indirect impacts to the birds. WEST is also
collaborating on projects designed to restore
disturbed habitats back to suitable GRSG
By Chad LeBeau, WEST biologist and Brian Heath, WEST biologist
Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; GRSG) is a sagebrush obligate
prairie grouse species that occurs in 11 western states and two Canadian provinces.
GRSG are experiencing range-wide declines and currently occupy 56% of its
historical range. The range-wide declines have been attributable to the loss or
fragmentation of sagebrush habitats due to conversion for agriculture development,
large scale vegetation treatments to remove sagebrush to improve rangelands for
livestock grazing, urban development, invasion of exotic species, large wild fires,
and energy development. Other threats that have contributed to GRSG regional
declines include drought, infectious diseases, and predation. In March of 2010,
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that listing
the GRSG as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
was warranted but precluded by higher priority listings. GRSG is considered a
candidate species under the ESA and currently the USFWS is reviewing the
status of this species and expected to propose a listing determination in September
2015. Conserving and managing key GRSG habitats is important to the viability
of sage-grouse populations.
One such project entailed assisting a restoration
team with determining the density and spatial
position of where to plant locally adapted
containerized sagebrush seedlings that would
help restore recently burned rangelands back to
suitable GRSG habitat. Fire kills sagebrush and
plants do not resprout after burning; therefore, it
could take between 50 – 150 years or longer for
sagebrush to naturally recolonize these wildfire
areas. WEST worked with various technical
specialists and the landowners to determine
the best sites for restoring big sagebrush where
the seedlings would mature, produce seed, and
naturally spread accelerating the return of the
burn areas back a condition that would provide
habitat for local GRSG populations.
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Chad LeBeau presented on
Sage Grouse and Energy
Development at the Wyoming
Infrastructure Authority Energy
Conference on October 7.
Dr. Bryan Manly presented
at an the Alfred Wegener
Institute’s Biologische Anstalt
Helgoland Conference in
Germany; September 26.
The conference will focus
on the importance of time
series observations for the
assessment of biological and
societal impacts of climate
Wally Erickson presented
September 17 at the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE)
WINDExchange Webinar
on Wind Energy and Eagles:
The Problem, the Permit, and
the Path Forward. Wally’s
presentation was on the
conservation and permitting
challenges associated with
wind energy and eagles.