- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - The number of Maryland wildlife species in greatest need of conservation has grown by 22 percent in a draft plan highlighting climate change that the state has released for public review.

The document, a proposed update of a 2005 plan, also mentions hydraulic fracturing as a threat to wildlife for the first time. State environmental regulators are developing rules for allowing the natural gas drilling technique in Maryland as early as October 2017.

The Department of Natural Resources released the first six chapters of the draft 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan Tuesday. The chapters are part of an update of the original 10-year plan, called the Maryland Wildlife Diversity Conservation Plan. The agency says it will make the full draft plan available for public comment before March 1.

The revised list of 610 species adds a net 108 compared to the 2005 plan. Newcomers include the American mink, ruffed grouse and six kinds of bats. Insects are most prevalent, accounting for 45 percent of the total. Nearly a quarter of the listed species are birds.

The list includes creatures already considered rare, threatened or endangered in Maryland, plus more common species that the agency regards as at risk. The plan is part of a federal program aimed at preventing declining common species from becoming endangered by developing strategies for preserving their habitat, state by state.

“There is a long list of species in Maryland in need of conservation,” said State Zoologist James McCann, who worked on the plan.

He said climate change, including warming temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns, is an overarching threat statewide. The document also lists 10 other threat categories, including residential and commercial land development, invasive species and pollution.

McCann said all 12 Maryland bat species are now on the list. He said threats to bats include the deadly fungal infection called white-nose syndrome, and giant wind turbines on mountain ridges that can obstruct flight corridors and degrade habitat.


2015 Maryland State Wildlife Action Plan: https://1.usa.gov/1OLiuul


This story has been corrected to show there are six newly added bats, not five.

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