Three Midwest Species Receive Endangered Species Act Protection
By Georgia Parham
In early September the Service designated the grotto sculpin, a small, cave-dwelling fish found only in Perry County, Missouri, as endangered. The Service first identified the grotto sculpin as a candidate for protection in 2002, due to a decline in water quality in the cave systems inhabited by the sculpin. Biologists have documented two mass die-offs in the cave systems in the past decade due to pollution at a single source entering groundwater.
The area where the grotto sculpin lives is characterized by hundreds of caves and thousands of sinkholes, where pollutants and other substances can rapidly find their way to underground waterways. The main threat to the grotto sculpin is water quality degradation and siltation in its habitat. Water quality is affected by contaminated agricultural runoff, sinkhole dumps, industrialization, and vertical drains installed without appropriate best management practices
Although some lands had been proposed as critical habitat for the grotto sculpin, no areas were designated, based on a comprehensive conservation plan developed by Perry County officials and other partners. The Service, citizens and government of Perry County, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources developed the Perry County Community Conservation Plan that addresses specific threats to the grotto sculpin and its habitat.
The Columbia, Missouri, Ecological Services Field Office worked closely with partners to develop the plan."The residents of Perry County are to be commended for their forward-looking approach to addressing water quality issues in their county," said Amy Salveter, project leader for ecological services in Columbia. "The partners have developed a plan that will not only conserve the habitat of the grotto sculpin, but will conserve and safeguard the water that supports the entire community."
Also in September, two freshwater mussels and a small cave fish were given Endangered Species Act protection. The Neosho mucket, found in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma, is listed as endangered, while the rabbitsfoot is listed as threatened. The rabbitsfoot is found in four Midwest Region states: Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio.
Threats to both the rabbitsfoot and Neosho mucket include loss and degradation of stream and river habitat due to impoundments, channelization, chemical contaminants, mining and sedimentation. The Service estimates that the Neosho mucket is gone from about 62 percent of its historic range, while the rabbitsfoot occupies only 36 percent of its former range.
More information on the rabbitsfoot, Neosho mucket, grotto sculpin and the Perry County Community conservation Plan can be found at www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered