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Mussels Inch Toward Federal Protection
Mussels Inch Toward Federal Protection
Mussels’ Endangerment Signals Decline of River Ecosystems
Contact: Nicole Rosmarino (505) 699-7404
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.-December 15. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced in today’s Federal Register that it would consider nine freshwater mussels, found in Texas and neighboring states, for Endangered Species Act protection. The Service determined that habitat loss and decline may threaten each of these mussels.
“These mussels urgently require federal protections. They are all vanishing swiftly, and their imperilment signals the decline of important river systems in Texas and elsewhere,” stated Nicole Rosmarino, WildEarth Guardians’ Wildlife Program Director. “By protecting these mussels, we could help restore living rivers in the region.”
Five of the mussels are part of WildEarth Guardians’ “Western Ark” project launched in October 2008, and four of the mussels were part of Guardians’ request to the Service in 2007 to list hundreds of critically imperiled species. Thus far, the Service has issued only positive findings for the Western Ark species. The agency is scheduled to issue findings later this month on approximately 200 more species petitioned by the group.
Several of the nine mussels previously slipped through the cracks on federal protection. The Service included the Texas heelsplitter, false spike, Mexican fawnsfoot, and Salina mucket on the federal candidate list before, but dropped them from the list in 1996.
For most of the mussels in today’s decision, the Service stated that it would investigate the effects of climate change in the course of a full status review. WildEarth Guardians contends that the climate crisis has a range of effects on these fragile creatures, from scouring floods to drought.
“Whether mussels, polar bears, or people, we are all the same boat when it comes to climate change. Endangered Species Act enforcement is an important way to help combat the climate crisis,” stated Rosmarino.
In August, WildEarth Guardians took the Service to court over its delay on issuing findings for 5 of the 9 mussels included in today’s decision. The group was represented by Misty Ewegen, Esq. of Denver, Colorado, and Peter Thompson and Steven S. Reilley of Thompson & Reilley, P.C. of Houston, Texas.
Background on the 9 mussels:
Texas fatmucket historically occurred in the Colorado, Guadalupe, and San Antonio Rivers, but currently occurs in only two tributaries of the Colorado River and the upper Guadalupe River in Texas. It is 3.5 inches long, with a tan to brown oval shell.
Texas heelsplitter historically and currently is known to occur in the Neches River, the lower-central Trinity River, and the upper Sabine River in Texas. It is 7 inches in length, with a tan to brown elongated shell.
Salina mucket occurred in the Rio Grande from New Mexico, through Texas, to northern Mexico but is now only known from the Rio Grande in Texas from Big Bend to below the Falcon Dam. It is 4.1 inches long, with a tan to black oval shell. In addition to habitat loss, the Service found that isolation of remaining populations may threaten this species.
Golden orb historically occurred in the Guadalupe, San Antonio, Colorado, and Nueces-Frio river systems, but currently only occurs in the upper and central Guadalupe River, lower San Marcos River, and lower Nueces River drainage. It is 3.0 inches long, with a tan, reddish-brown, orange-brown, or brown rectangular or elliptical shell.
Smooth pimpleback historically occurred in the Brazos and Colorado river systems in central Texas and is now known in portions of these rivers. It is 2.5 inches long, with a dark brown to black round shell. While generally smooth, other individuals may have bumps (or pimples). In addition to habitat loss, the Service stated that it will further investigate the consequences of climate change in its status review.
Texas pimpleback historically occurred in the upper and central Brazos, Colorado, and Guadalupe-San Antonio rivers, and is now known from only two tributaries of the Colorado River and the upper San Marcos River. Its shell is glossy tan to brown, sometimes with green and yellow markings. In addition to habitat loss, the Service found that rare-shell collectors and inadequate protections may threaten this species. The Service will further investigate the effects of climate change in its status review.
False spike historically occurred in the Brazos, Colorado, and Guadalupe river systems in central Texas and in the Rio Grande system from New Mexico to Mexico, but is now known only from a single tributary to the Guadalupe River (the lower San Marcos River). It is 5.2 inches long, with a tawny brown to black oval or round shell. In addition to habitat loss, the Service stated that it will further investigate the consequences of climate change in its status review.
Mexican fawnsfoot historically occurred in a large section of the Rio Grande system, including the lower Pecos River near Del Rio, Texas, through the Rio Salado of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, Mexico, but is now known to inhabit only a small section of the lower Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas. It is 1.7 inches long, with a yellow to gray-green elliptical shell. In addition to habitat loss, the Service stated that it will further investigate the consequences of climate change in its status review.
Texas fawnsfoot historically occurred in the Brazos and Colorado river systems, and is now known from only two populations, one in each of these rivers. It is 2.2 inches long, with a gray-green to dark brown oval shell. In addition to habitat loss, the Service stated that it will further investigate the consequences of climate change in its status review.
To obtain the petitions, photos of these mussels, and other information, contact Nicole Rosmarino at email@example.com.