Some help for bats

Earlier this week the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced their award of research grants representing $1.6 million for white- nose syndrome – the disease that has been devastating bat populations across the eastern United States and that is spreading rapidly towards the west.  The announcement is welcome news in that research funds are desperately needed for scientists to better understand this mysterious disease that was first detected in the US only four years ago.  Researchers are struggling to understand even the basic aspects of this disease and what they need is more research, more quickly – which means more money.

The need for research on white-nose syndrome is so serious that scientists have estimated it would take in the range of $50 million over a five year period to address the top priority questions.  The fact that the announcement is for $1.6 million and that there were 36 applications for the 6 grants that were awarded goes to show how incredibly underfunded this devastating epidemic currently is.

That the research funds even exist is due in large part to the extraordinary efforts of a few senators like Senator Frank Lautenberg (NJ) and Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) who fought hard to secure funding that would be dedicated to addressing white-nose syndrome given how heavily the bat populations had been hit in the northeast.  Representative Carol Shea-Porter (NH) has also been a strong champion in the house.  

This year’s news that the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome had spread to  14 states and Canada including as far south as Tennessee and as far west as Oklahoma, means that many more people (and many more senators and representatives) should now be concerned.  The year’s news is also why NRDC has partnered with Bat Conservation International to convene two important meetings next week. 

On Tuesday our organizations will host a strategy meeting with the broader conservation community to focus our efforts on implementing effective approaches for securing additional and timely funding for research, and shaping agency management actions around white-nose syndrome.  And on Wednesday we will hold a briefing on the topic for offices on Capitol Hill to raise the awareness of white-nose syndrome and the importance of bats in the minds of our nation’s most important decision makers. 

Because if we are going to meaningfully address this epidemic – which has already led to the death of over a million bats – we are going to need more congressional champions and more than a few million dollars.

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Photo credit: Tolka River shared via Flickr