MONTPELIER, Vt. – A Vermont environmental group says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to protect a once-common species of bat through the Endangered Species Act.

The Richmond-based Center for Biological Diversity says the service has proposed granting Endangered Species Act protection to the northern long-eared bat, a species that has been devastated by the disease known as white-nose syndrome

But the service declined to recommend protection for the eastern small-footed bat.

Regional officials of the Fish and Wildlife Service were closed Tuesday as part of the federal government shutdown.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s Mollie Matteson says the proposal to protect the northern long-eared bat comes “not a moment too soon.”

White-nose has spread to 22 states and parts of Canada. Scientists estimate nearly 7 million bats have died.