Greg Turner hoisted himself up with a rope from an unlighted 20-foot pit in an abandoned mine in Durham, Pennsylvania. His task of counting bats didn’t take long — just seven where five years ago there were 4,000.
“There’s nobody home, basically, at this point,” said Turner, an endangered-mammal specialist at the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The agency wants to set up bat protections that threaten human livelihoods, say the state’s leading business lobby and lumber industry, which accounts for about 5 percent of U.S. jobs in that field.
A flesh-eating disease called white-nose syndrome has killed more than 5.7 million bats in the eastern U.S. and Canada since its discovery in a New York cave in 2006. Pennsylvania has had the most precipitous decline, according to Bat Conservation International. The game commission, which manages wildlife and habitats, has proposed placing three species on the state’s endangered list, as was done in Wisconsin and Vermont.
The Pennsylvania Forest Products Association, based in Harrisburg, says a listing might lead to a ban on tree removals, making it nearly impossible for businesses to recover from the 18-month recession that ended in 2009. The association represents lumber companies such as Montreal-based Domtar Corp. and Temple Inland, a division of Memphis, Tennessee-based International Paper.