A type of bat that's been decimated by disease is now considered threatened in the U.S.
But – for now, at least – the Fish and Wildlife Service is not listing the northern long-eared bat as an endangered species.
The distinction is an important one for Minnesota's logging industry, which will be allowed to continue most of its tree harvest under rules the Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday.
The disease, called white nose syndrome, has killed millions of bats in Eastern and Midwestern states as it spreads through the caves and abandoned mines where they hibernate.
The Fish and Wildlife Service will take public comments on its ruling until July 1 and may then revise it. In the meantime, an interim rule will be in place.
Minnesota is among the states where the northern long-eared bat shelters its young in trees during June and July. Endangered species status for the bat would likely have halted the logging of those trees.
Under Wednesday's ruling, only trees within a quarter-mile of a known roosting or hibernating area cannot be logged, the Duluth News Tribune reports.
Wayne Brandt, executive vice-president of Minnesota Forest Industries, appreciates that the federal government opted against endangered status for the bat – but he tells the News Tribune the state's timber industry should be considered threatened, too.
Brandt notes it's white nose syndrome, not logging, that's caused bat numbers to plummet and he opposes restrictions on the timber industry.
The Fish and Wildlife Service says the disease has turned up in 28 of the 37 states that are home to northern long-eared bats.
Officials tell the News Tribune no Minnesota bats are confirmed to have died from white nose syndrome, but traces of the disease have turned up in the Soudan Underground Mine in Tower and at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in southern Minnesota.