Thursday, February 10, 2005
Big-eared bat brings nationwide attention
General Assembly Notebook
The latest from our Blue Ridge Caucus politics blog
From The Roanoke Times
Del. Jackie Stump never imagined that befriending a big-eared loner from Southwest Virginia would make him a national celebrity, but it has - at least in some circles.
Stump, D-Buchanan County, said he's received calls and e-mails from people living throughout the United States thanking him for attempting to raise awareness of a critter that's not exactly a publicity hound: the endangered Virginia big-eared bat.
Stump is sponsoring legislation (HB 2579) to make the 3- to 4-inch-long cave dweller with - surprise, surprise - unusually long ears Virginia's official state bat.
"You would think I was running for president," Stump said about the support he's gotten from bat-lovers nationwide.
On Wednesday, the big-eared bat bill continued its glide through the General Assembly by picking up the endorsement of the Senate General Laws Committee. All that's left is approval from the full Senate and Gov. Mark Warner to put the big-eared bat on par with the cardinal (the state bird) and the square dance (the state dance).
There are an estimated 1,500 to 2,200 Virginia big-eared bats in the state, all of them living in the counties of Tazewell, Bland, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge and Shenandoah. The only other state with an official bat is Texas.
Stump introduced the bill at the request of the Virginia Cave Board, which has a mission of educating the public about cave life-forms. Board member Claire Ward said the Virginia big-eared seemed like the ideal candidate for the designation because of its name and its status as a federally endangered species.
Bill would speed up reviews of impact studies
Environmental impact studies of highway projects could be expedited under legislation passed this week by the House of Delegates.
The House on Tuesday passed a bill (HB 1602) mandating timely reviews of various environmental permit applications required for road-building projects. Under the legislation, sponsored by Del. William Fralin, R-Roanoke, agencies that issue permits under the state's conservation, tidal fisheries and habitat, game and wildlife, and water quality laws would have to act on an application within six months or decide to hold a public meeting or hearing. A decision on an application would be made no later than 90 days after the hearing.
The measure passed the House by a vote of 86-12 and now goes to the state Senate.
- Michael Sluss