Fund Will Work to Slow the Spread of White-Nose Syndrome across the U.S.
New York, NY (October 27, 2016) – Just in time for Halloween, one of the best known symbols of this spooky celebration is getting some much needed help. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) have created the Bats for the Future Fund, a competitive grant program that will fund the development of treatments for white-nose syndrome (WNS) to promote the survival of bats in North America. USFWS has pledged $1 million to seed the fund, which will annually pool public and private dollars to fight the disease that is decimating bat populations across the country.
Bats play key roles in nature while also providing important benefits by controlling insect pests. Recent studies estimate that bats eat enough pests to save the U.S. corn industry alone more than $1 billion a year in crop damage and pesticide costs, and more than $3 billion per year to all agricultural production.
More than 6 million bats have died over the past decade from WNS. In some sites, up to 100 percent of bats have disappeared. Since signs of the disease were first observed in New York state in 2006, WNS has spread rapidly from the Northeast to the Midwest, Southeast and eastern Canada. In the spring of 2016, WNS was found in Washington state.
“The threat posed by white-nose syndrome can’t be overstated. It is the single biggest threat to many North American bats and one of the most pressing conservation challenges facing America’s wildlife today,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Investing in defeating this disease must be a priority, and the Bats for the Future Fund will provide a tangible way for organizations to engage in these critical efforts.”
The disease is caused by a cold-loving fungus that attacks hibernating bats. More than half of the bat species in the United States and Canada hibernate to survive the winter and are potentially susceptible. Without a solution, several bat species may be in danger of extinction.
“We are excited to launch the Bats for the Future Fund to support key actions that will make a difference for the survival of bats nationwide,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “Bats play a critical role in nature from Maine to Florida, and from Texas to Washington state. The Bats for the Future Fund will fund organizations across the country working to slow the spread of white-nose syndrome.”
The Bats for the Future Fund will focus grant funding on existing and new disease treatments and tools urgently needed at the leading edge of WNS’s march across North America, including in areas where WNS is currently causing the greatest bat population declines, such as the Midwest. Ideally, treatments will reduce effects of WNS and improve survival of bats exposed to the disease.
Adding to funding from USFWS, the U.S. Forest Service has committed a minimum of $100,000 for the Bats for the Future Fund in its first year.
“Since the emergence of white-nose syndrome, the Forest Service has been an important partner in efforts to slow the spread of this devastating disease, and to understand the fungus and investigate ways to combat it,” said Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief for National Forest System, USFS. “We are pleased to partner with the Bats for the Future Fund to work with public and private landowners to contain white-nose syndrome before it reaches new bat species and populations in the south and west.”
NFWF will administer an annual competitive grant solicitation and selection process, working with an advisory committee comprised of government agency representatives and other leading bat experts.
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores our nation’s wildlife and habitats. Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private contributions. NFWF works with government, nonprofit and corporate partners to find solutions for the most intractable conservation challenges. Over the last three decades, NFWF has funded more than 4,500 organizations and committed more than $3.5 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.
About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov.
About the U.S. Forest Service
The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. http://www.fs.usda.gov/