The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized Endangered Species Act protection today for two species of freshwater mussels in the Tennessee River watershed, including 1,380 river miles of critical habitat in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia. The decisions to protect the slabside pearlymussel and fluted kidneyshell result from a 2011 settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity requiring the agency to fast-track protection decisions for 757 imperiled plants and animals around the country.
“More kinds of mussels are found in the Southeast than anywhere else in the entire world, but pollution and dams have driven many of them to extinction,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center. “Endangered Species Act protection for the fluted kidneyshell and slabside pearlymussel will ensure that these beautiful mollusks aren’t erased from the Southeast’s special natural heritage.”
The slabside pearlymussel was first identified as being in need of federal protection in 1984. The fluted kidneyshell has been waiting for federal protection since 1999.
The slabside pearlymussel was once found in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia; it has been lost from Kentucky and survives in no more than 11 streams in the Tennessee River watershed in the other four states. It is no longer found in nearly 70 percent of its native streams: All remaining populations are in decline, and several are on the verge of being lost.
The fluted kidneyshell was once found in the Cumberland and Tennessee river watersheds in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. It has been extirpated from Alabama and now occurs in only 12 of 37 of the streams where it was once found. More....