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Boost to Minnesota loggers as wildlife group says bat species 'not endangered'

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Almost 40 states have argued against placing a bat species found in Minnesota on an endangered list, which would have a detrimental impact on Minnesota's lumber industry.

The battle continues over whether the white nose syndrome disease killing Northern long-eared bats is of such severity, that the species should be designated endangered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the Star Tribune.

If they are classed as endangered, it could potentially put an end to the logging of Minnesota's forests every year between April and September to avoid causing deliberate or even accidental death to the estimated 5,000 of the bats nesting in the state.

An estimated seven million bats have died in New York as a result of a fungus called white nose syndrome, the Grand Rapids Herald Review reports, but only a handful of cases have been discovered in Minnesota.

It is for this reason that the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies - which includes Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources - has put its name to a document along with several other groups representing 39 states in total, arguing the bat does not need the level of protection being considered, the Star Tribune said.

Listing them as endangered would have a major impact upon northern Minnesota's loggers and sawmills, the Herald Review writes, with Bigfork logger Clinton Cook telling the newspaper: "It would be catastrophic.

"It would effectively shut down logging during a critical time of the year."

The decision on whether the bats should be considered endangered will be made in the spring, and while it would not definitively ban logging during the warmer months, it is likely to increase the costs significantly, as each tree would have to be inspected for bats before it could be felled.

The Aitkin Age reports that there was found to be no sign of the fungus in Minnesota's forests in 2013 and 14, which followed evidence of the disease being found in Soudan Underground Mine and Forestville/Mystery Cave state parks in 2011 and 2012.

A study into Minnesota's long-eared bat population by Tim Sichmiller, from Wildlife West Inc., found that the state's bats are currently healthy.

But, Sichmiller served a reminder as to why they are so important to the United States as a whole, telling the Aitkin Age they save "anywhere from $3 billion to $25 billion in pest control."

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