The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized Endangered Species Act protection today for two freshwater mussels, following a 2011 agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protection decisions for 757 imperiled species nationwide. The Neosho mucket mussel, which occurs in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, was listed as endangered, while the rabbitsfoot mussel, which occurs in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, was listed as threatened.
“What a relief that these two unique mussels and the rivers they need to survive are finally getting protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “Saving these two mussels will mean cleaning up rivers that we all need for drinking, fishing and swimming.”
The Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot mussels live on the bottom of streams and rivers and have suffered drastic declines because of water pollution and dams. Mussels reproduce by making a lure that looks like a young fish; when larger fish try to prey on the lure, the mussels release their fertilized eggs onto the fish’s gills. In dirty water the fish cannot see the mussel’s lure, so the mussel can’t reproduce.
Under the settlement agreement with the Center, 107 species have been protected so far, including the two mussels protected today, and another 61 have been proposed for protection. The Fish and Wildlife Service has also proposed to protect 2,138 miles of critical habitat for the two mussels, which it says will be finalized in the near future. More....