On March 31, 2023, in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) listing of the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) as endangered, the Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Districts issued a notice informing the public of a new special condition that applies to all Section 10 and Section 404 permit authorizations in Pennsylvania where work has not been completed as of March 31, 2023. The special condition requires these permit holders to verify compliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by rescreening their projects using the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Index (PNDI) tool. The PNDI receipt will either indicate that no further review is required, require consultation with the USFWS, recommend avoidance measures, or direct the applicant to utilize the USFWS’ Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) tool to screen the project. If the permit holder cannot comply with any avoidance measures or if the PNDI or IPaC indicate that consultation with the USFWS is required, the permit holder must contact the Corps office that issued their permit. The Corps will then consult with the USFWS to ensure compliance with Section 7.
It is important to understand that the Pennsylvania State Programmatic General Permit 6 (PASPGP-6) is a type of general Section 404 permit issued by the Corps. PASPGP-6 is often verified by either the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection or a delegated county conservation district when reporting thresholds are met and attached to Pennsylvania Chapter 105 General Permits or Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permits (i.e., Joint Permits). Therefore, even if the Corps did not review your permit, the Corps’ special condition may still apply to your project.
If your project did not require a Section 10 or a Section 404 permit, and work has not been completed, you may still want to reevaluate your project, especially if you are planning to clear trees. The Endangered Species Act prohibits the “take” of endangered species. This means that your project activities cannot do anything that would “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect” an endangered species. Clearing trees is an activity that could potentially result in the “take” of a northern long-eared bat, and now that this species is listed as endangered, you must take the proper steps to ensure that your project activities will not affect this species.
If you are unsure of how to proceed on your project or if you have any permitting-related questions, please contact Peter Staudenmeier. If you need to consult with the USFWS or your project requires a bat survey, please contact Jackie Rockey, CEC’s lead bat biologist for Pennsylvania.