The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has called white-nose syndrome the "worst wildlife health crisis in memory." Seven years after the disease first showed up in a cave in upstate New York, the little-understood malady has exploded across North America, killing 7 million bats.
In response to this disaster, bat champions in Congress -- with pressure from the Center for Biological Diversity and thousands of bat-loving constituents like you -- have managed to eke out modest federal funding for research and management of the disease in the past several years.
However, as the federal budgetary process seems to grow more chaotic and contentious this year, it's a frighteningly real possibility that money for white-nose syndrome research will vanish.
Loss of that funding would cripple vital research and conservation projects, and it would deal a devastating blow to a campaign that may finally be gaining a handle on how to stop this fatal disease.
Please join us in taking action and send a letter to Congress urging it to renew federal money in 2014 for fighting white-nose syndrome and saving some of nature's best pest controls.
I am writing to express my support for designated funding to combat white-nose syndrome (WNS) -- a disease decimating North American bats -- during the 2014 fiscal year.
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that WNS has killed nearly 7 million bats since its outbreak in 2006. WNS is now present in 22 states -- and the invasive fungus that causes the syndrome is found in an additional two. The disease currently affects seven bat species including endangered Indiana and gray bats. Declines have been so steep that Fish and Wildlife is reviewing three additional bat species for endangered listings.
Losing bats to WNS has serious implications for our economy and environment. Bats are primary predators of night-flying insects -- including agricultural pests that attack corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops. By eating these pests, bats reduce the need for pesticides, lower food costs and save farmers an estimated $22.9 billion per year. Bats also eat insects that can be harmful to timber. In addition bats may benefit public health by eating insects that could be vectors of disease in people.
Significant progress has been made in understanding the basic science of WNS, a disease that was unknown just a few years ago. Now federal agencies are ready to take this research to the next level, to find a way to contain the disease. But the crucial next steps cannot happen without adequate funding.
-- $1.5 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to direct and coordinate WNS research and management;
-- $1.505 million for the U.S. Geological Survey to investigate the cause and find a cure for WNS;
-- $3 million for the National Park Service to protect bat colonies and educate the public about the importance of bats;
-- $500,000 for the Bureau of Land Management to respond to WNS; and
-- $1 million for the U.S. Forest Service to conduct applied research on WNS and protect bats.
I ask that you recognize the wise investment Congress has made in combating WNS to date. Please support this continued effort and provide robust funding to fight WNS in fiscal year 2014.