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Lake States Forest Management Bat Habitat Conservation Plan

Forest bat populations are rapidly declining, and one or more species may soon be reclassified as endangered. If reclassified, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides the opportunity to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). An HCP helps endangered species recover by conserving their habitat during land management activities. In preparation, Wisconsin and neighboring states are developing a forest management bat HCP that will maintain bat habitat and allow important forest management activities to continue.

This page will keep you informed on the status of the HCP, share opportunities for involvement and gather your feedback as the plan is developed.

Provide Feedback on Draft HCP Chapters

Wisconsin DNR is seeking stakeholder feedback on draft chapters of the Lake States Forest Management Bat Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). State DNRs in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin will collect and compile feedback from stakeholders in their states. The HCP Steering Committee will consider submitted comments and if changes are necessary they will be incorporated into the final administrative draft of the HCP that will be submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for review and consideration. Ultimately, the USFWS will make the final decision as to what can be included in the HCP. After the Lakes States HCP is complete, each state will, individually, apply to the USFWS for an incidental take permit and develop a Certificate of Inclusion process for covering forest management on non-state lands.

To provide feedback on draft chapters of the Lake States Forest Management Bat HCP:

  1. Download PDF files of draft HCP Chapters 4 and 5 (below).
  2. Read chapters and develop constructive feedback in the form of written comments within 45 days.
  3. Send comments to Bat HCP Stakeholder Feedback, by August 21, 2020.

The following chapters are available for review:

Previously Reviewed Sections

Important facts

  • Fast-moving white-nose syndrome is increasing the likelihood that the federally threatened northern long-eared bat and other bat species will be reclassified as endangered in the near future.
  • The Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources are developing a joint, large-scale HCP. The HCP describes the costs and benefits of forest management for bats, and details conservation measures to offset forest management impacts on bats.
  • Wisconsin forest land owners—public or private—may voluntarily participate in the HCP and have certain forest management activities in their woodlands permitted for incidental take by its provisions. They also have the option to develop their own HCP through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, if desired.
  • The HCP integrates forest practices with conservation measures to support bat populations. Input from forest land owners, forest managers, conservation groups and other stakeholders is essential to developing an effective HCP.

What you can do

Provide your comments and suggestions on draft HCP chapters (see above). We want to hear from you.

View the introductory webinar. To provide background, our partners with the MN DNR have developed an introductory online video that will be available for viewing beginning Tuesday, July 25, 2017. If you need an accommodation to view the video, contact Nicholas Zouski at (608)267-7490 or email at your earliest convenience.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has more information about other steps you can take.

Frequently asked questions

Why should I care about Wisconsin's forest bats?

Bats are a critical component of a healthy ecosystem. A bat can consume its weight in insects every night, reducing the need for agricultural pesticides and decreasing mosquito populations.

WNS is causing dramatic declines in bat populations of Wisconsin and across the country. Many forest bats are imperiled because of this disease.

Forest management activities benefit bats and other wildlife, while maintaining healthy forests and generating income for landowners and timber companies.

Many of Wisconsin's bats spend spring, summer and fall in the state's forests, where they spend their days roosting in tree cavities and crevices, and under loose bark. Female bats give birth to young while in these tree roosts. Before they are able to fly, young bats may be vulnerable to the effects of normal forest management activities.

Wisconsinites want healthy bat populations that have access to the habitat they need to thrive and reproduce.

Why does Wisconsin need a forest bat Habitat Conservation Plan?

In response to the effects of WNS, in 2015 the USFWS designated the northern long-eared bat as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act. The 2015 designation included special provisions to allow for continued management of forest habitat.

If Wisconsin's forest bats continue to decline as expected, they will likely be reclassified as "endangered." If that happens, the special provisions will no longer be available.

Once designated as endangered, an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) will allow for otherwise restricted summer forest management to occur. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can issue an ITP only if the applicant develops a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).

The HCP describes the costs and benefits of forest management for bats, and what conservation measures will be implemented to offset impacts of forest management on bats. It integrates forest practices with conservation measures that support bat populations.

What is the DNR's role in the Habitat Conservation Plan?

The Wisconsin DNR is partnering with the Minnesota and Michigan DNRs to develop the Lake States Forest Bat Habitat Conservation Plan.

As a forest land owner, the Wisconsin DNR will benefit from the HCP since the HCP will allow the Wisconsin DNR to apply for an Incidental Take Permit. The DNR will extend the same opportunity to other land owners as a public service.

A federal grant to the three states is paying for development of the HCP.

DNR experts in bat conservation and forest management are guiding development of the HCP.

As a forest land owner, what do I need to know?

If any of Wisconsin’s forest bats are reclassified as federally endangered, forest landowners will need to consider the effect of their activities on the bats.

Participation in the HCP is voluntary,but is one way to ensure that a landowner's forest management activities can be conducted without impacting endangered species.

Participants will know they are complying with federal regulations and will provide conservation benefits to bat species while managing their forest.