By Jonathan Grass
GUNTERSVILLE, Alabama -- Scientists have recommended a rare north Alabama crawfish for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. This slenderclaw crawfish has been the center of a legal dispute between the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The slenderclaw crawfish have only been found near Lake Guntersville since 1939 when most of their natural habitat was flooded by the damming of the Tennessee River that created the lake. The area in Shoal Creek is the only spot out of 55 sites scientists have found the crawfish. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials told The Associated Press Tuesday this led to the recommendation for the endangered list.
The Center for Biological Diversity stated last month it intended to sue the agency because it hadn't made a decision since a 2010 petition to list the slenderclaw crawfish as endangered, stating Alabama's slenderclaw crayfish is in "serious trouble."
This is the only one of six southern crawfish species the agency approved for protection Tuesday. In a press release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states new information has led scientists to determine five species in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi could be dropped from the petition. These include the blackbarred crayfish, burrowing bog crayfish, Chattooga River crayfish, lagniappe crayfish and least crayfish. The agency report this information came from scientists with the the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Geological Survey of Alabama and the U.S. Forest Service's Southern Research Station. It is added to data from a three-year study.
"We're excited about leading the way with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This proactive conservation effort is keeping Alabama's wildlife under state management," Charles Sykes, director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Fisheries, said in the release. "By pooling our resources, we're learning more about our species, bringing efficiency to conservation, and making a difference on the landscape for the people of Alabama."
According to the statement, it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to list a single species while the study on the crawfish dropped from the list totaled about $62,000.