Problem Filed Over Vermont’s Refusal to Defend Endangered Bats From Lethal Insecticide Spraying

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MONTPELIER, Vt. – The Vermont Natural Resources Council and Center for Biological Diversity today sued the Vermonts Agency of Natural Resources for refusing to seek permission from the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen-Pittsford Insect Control District to grant five threatened and endangered Vermonts harm bat species.

The Insect Control District sprays the poisonous insecticides malathion and permethrin to control mosquitoes in the habitats of the Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, lesser brown bat, eastern small-footed bat, and tri-colored bat, all of which are protected by Vermont’s Protection of Endangered Species Act. The coalition, along with numerous allies and supporters, submitted an expert report from Arrowwood Environmental to the state agency in 2019 describing how the district’s activities may harm or kill these endangered bats, already threatened with white-nose syndrome and habitat loss.

“Vermont’s endangered species experts spoke clearly,” said Mason Overstreet, attorney attorney at the Vermont Law School’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic. “Inadequately regulated pesticide spraying puts the state’s endangered and endangered bats at risk. ANR’s decision to ignore both the scientific consensus and plain preventive language of the Vermont Endangered Species Act abandons its responsibility to protect endangered wildlife.

Pesticide spraying occurs on summer nights when bats hunt for flying insects. The bats fly deep through the chemical pesticide plume and are exposed to poisonous droplets that they inhale, ingest through their thin-skinned wing membranes or get on their fur and later ingest when grooming. You can also catch and eat flying insects that are contaminated with the chemicals. These pesticides are known to cause neurological and physiological stress and injury in bats.

“Vermont’s Endangered Species Act is an important piece of legislation protecting animal species from a variety of threats, including poisoning from toxic chemicals,” said Brian Shupe, executive director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council. “ANR generally does a commendable job of protecting endangered resources, but if so, it needs to reinforce this law and apply it to an activity that puts these endangered bats at significant risk.”

In March 2021, the Endangered Species Committee, a scientific advisory group to the Secretary of the State Agency for Natural Resources and the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, unanimously and formally recommended the agency that it begin the Insect Control District’s accidental intake approval process to continue spraying the pesticides.

The biologists stressed that the Natural Resource Agency is the only government agency with the expertise and authority to protect bats and that approval is the only mechanism available. The committee’s evaluation process included an independent scientific review by its mammalian scientific advisory group. However, on July 19, 2021, the agency formally rejected the recommendation to require approval.

“There is no doubt that Vermont’s refusal to obey science and the law will result in poisonous insecticides harming these amazing, endangered animals,” said Lori Ann Burd, director of environmental health at the Center for Biodiversity. “Given that bats actually help regulate mosquito populations, the state’s reckless decision to have them killed to kill mosquitoes is a short-sighted decision that will cause long-term damage. It leaves us with no choice but to go to court to protect them. “

The groups are represented by Mason Overstreet of the Environmental Advocacy Clinic at Vermont Law School and Ron Shems, Esq., Tarrant, Gillies, Richardson & Shems LLP.