Endangered Species
Midwest Region



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Endangered Species Program in the Upper Midwest

Conserving and restoring threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems


Freshwater Mussels and the Renewal of the

Dubuque Ice Harbor


Higgins eye pearlymussel

Higgins eye pearlymussel

Photo by USFWS

November 17, 2015

What does a marina and a museum on the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa, have to do with conservation?


For the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it is linked by mussels.


Mississippi River mussels have been at the center of attention in Iowa since the late 1800s. The shells found in the river were tough, thick and abundant for making pearl buttons. Industry peaked in 1916 with at least 41 factories in Iowa using freshwater mussel shells for buttons. While pollution, silting and dredging contributed to the decline of freshwater mussels, overharvesting for button production brought many species to the brink of extinction. The button business perished by the 1960s as a result of these factors.


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Threatened and Endangered Mussels




Kirtland's warbler

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What We Do

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act. To fulfill our responsibilities, we do the following:


Candidate Conservation: identify and assess declining species that may need Endangered Species Act protection and take steps to conserve those species.


Listing: take steps to list candidate species as endangered or threatened and designate critical habitat. We also remove species from the Threatened and Endangered Species List ("delist") when they no longer need Endangered Species Act protection.


Recovery: protect, conserve and restore listed species. Recovery Report to Congress: 2009 to 2010 (PDF 3.1MB)


Section 7 Technical Assistance

Section 7 consultation guidance for Federal agencies and their applicants (i.e., project proponents).

Section 7 Consultation: all Federal agencies have a responsiblity to conserve threatened and endangered species and to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the existence of any listed species. Under the authority of Section 7 of the Act, we consult with Federal agencies to help them fulfill their obligations.


Permits: issue permits to "take" listed species, under certain conditions.


Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs): work with Incidental Take permit applicants to help them prepare HCPs that minimize and mitigate the effects of their incidental take.


Grants: provide grants to States under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act. These funds may, in turn, be awarded to private landowners and groups for conservation projects.


State Field Offices

We have Ecological Services Field Offices in each of the eight upper Midwest States. For project reviews, Section 7 consultation, or information about endangered species that you do not find on this site, please contact the Field Office in your state.



“Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of
preservation than the rich array of animal life with
which our country has been blessed. It is a many faceted
treasure, of value to scholars, scientists,
and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part
of the heritage we all share as Americans.”


Bloom of the prairie bush clover.  Photo by USFWS: Phil Delphey

Last updated: November 23, 2015