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Fish and Wildlife Service Designates Critical Habitat for Two Freshwater Mussels in 12 States
Shrinks designation by nearly 30 percent in Arkansas & nearly 220 river miles overall

April 29, 2015

Neosho Mucket

Neosho mucket uses a minnow lure to attract a host fish (bass) for its larvae, credit Chris Barnhart/Missouri State University.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized critical habitat designations for the Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot mussels in rivers of 12 states under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The final designations are smaller than those proposed nearly three years ago, and include a significant change to what the Service proposed in Arkansas for the rabbitsfoot, reducing the designation there by 27 percent. The final critical habitat designations in Arkansas affect less than two percent of the state’s total perennial stream miles as defined by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

The Service altered the critical habitat designations after receiving new relevant information from a number of people and organizations including the Association of Arkansas Counties. The final designations result in a net reduction of about two river miles for Neosho mucket and 217 river miles for rabbitsfoot. Both species of freshwater mussels are found in river systems in the eastern half of the United States and are indicators of clean water and healthy rivers. Today’s decision finalizes a proposal released in 2012 and includes the final economic analysis associated with the critical habitat designations.

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Service Provides $1.1 Billion to State Wildlife Agencies Benefiting Outdoor Recreationists, Conservation, Regional Economies

April 28, 2015

Two hunters sit in a blind on Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge.

Hunting is a popular recreational activity at Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Michael Johnson; USFWS

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will distribute $1.1 billion in revenues generated by the hunting and angling industry to state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies throughout the nation. The funds support critical fish and wildlife conservation and recreation projects that benefit all Americans.

The Service apportions the funds to all 50 states and U.S. territories through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration programs. Revenues come from excise taxes generated by the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing equipment, electric boat motors, and from taxes on the purchase of motorboat fuel.

“These funds are the cornerstone of state-based efforts that are critical to the preservation of America’s wildlife and natural resources,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “But they are also the fuel for a massive financial engine that benefits outdoor recreationists, hunters and anglers, equipment manufacturers and retailers, and local and regional economies. Their value cannot be overstated in providing opportunities for the next generation of Americans to get outdoors, experience our wild places and learn the importance of conserving our natural heritage.”

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In case you missed it: Five Things You Need to Know; 5th Anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

April 28, 2015

Green Sea Turtle Hatchling covered in sand at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) Hatchling at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge Credit: Keenan Adams

#1 Did you know that the good health of the Gulf of Mexico depends on places far from the Gulf Coast? Thirty-one states (more than 50% of the contiguous US) have rivers, creeks, and streams that eventually drain into the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico watershed includes states as far away as Montana and New York!

#2 Did you know that it is actually very easy to cause additional harm to the environment when cleaning up oiled shorelines? The cleanup itself -- with lots of people, heavy equipment, and constant activity -- can add to the environmental harm caused by the oil! Even artificial lighting used to keep emergency efforts going 24/7 can have a negative impact. For example, light pollution can discourage endangered female sea turtles from coming ashore at night to nest.

#3 Did you know that restoring the Gulf of Mexico is a collaborative process that doesn't just involve the federal government, the Gulf Coast states and the companies responsible for the oil spill? It involves the public, and is up to everyone in partnership! Ultimately, the level of success we reach in restoring the Gulf will be directly related to how well we coordinate our efforts.

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BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Settlement Funds Migrate North

April 27, 2015

Aerial photo of Prairie Pothole region covered in small lakes and ponds.

The Prairie Pothole Region of the United States and Canada is where over half of North America's waterfowl nest. This area is referred to as the "Duck Factory". Credit: Krista Lundgren/USFWS

Most of us, if given a choice, would steer clear of potholes. Many migratory birds, however, actively seek out potholes -- provided you’re talking about the thousands of temporary, seasonal, and semi- permanent wetlands wetlands known as “potholes” that are found in the prairies of the Northern Great Plains. Despite their importance to wildlife, these shallow wetland “potholes” are often drained, filled, or degraded by development and agricultural practices. With its mission focus on wetlands restoration and conservation, the Service naturally has placed a priority on enhancing, restoring and acquiring bird habitat in what’s known as the Prairie Pothole Region. What might come as a surprise, however, is that projects in the region are being funded with legal settlement money from the 2010 oil spill that took place in the Gulf of Mexico.

On January 29, 2013, BP pled guilty to 14 criminal counts stemming from its actions related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including one misdemeanor count of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. As part of the settlement, BP agreed to pay $100 million to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund (NAWCF) to support projects focused on wetlands restoration and conservation in the United States, Canada and Mexico. According to the agreement, those organizations that apply to NAWCF for some of the $100 million need to show that their projects are “designed to benefit migratory bird species and other wildlife affected by the ... oil spill.” The organizations must also match the grants at least dollar to dollar, so in effect, more than $200 million will be spent in this way on species and their habitats affected by the spill.

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A Vital Partnership Takes Root, And Urban Kids Will Benefit

April 22, 2015

Members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity pose for a photo on an airboat with USFWS Employee.

Photo: Pon Dixson, center, with Baton Rouge and New Orleans chapter members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

One year ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a new partnership with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., one of the nation’s oldest and most prominent African-American fraternities. Since then, we’ve made great progress toward our shared goal of working together to help urban youth across the country to both experience the natural world and explore future careers in wildlife conservation.

The fact that Sigma’s leadership and members have fully embraced this partnership from the get-go is truly exciting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers a variety of opportunities for kids to get out in nature and explore. But our reach in many urban communities is still developing, and having Sigma members by our side to help involve more urban youth and families in outdoor activities will significantly expand our ability to engage more Americans in a meaningful way.

One way Sigma is helping to facilitate our reach is by working to involve the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the fraternity’s response to President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.

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New National Wildlife Refuge Established to Protect Some of Appalachia’s Rarest Places

April 22, 2015

Flower emerges from dark, moist soil.

Trout lily blooming at new Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: USFWS; Gary Peeples

Asheville, N.C. – The Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge became America’s 563rd refuge today.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Jim Kurth visited Western North Carolina to announce the establishment of a new national wildlife refuge devoted to the conservation of southern Appalachian mountain bogs, one of the rarest and most imperiled habitats in the United States. North Carolina is home to 11 refuges; Mountain Bogs Refuge is the first one west of Charlotte.

“The establishment of Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge marks a turning point in the efforts of a number of dedicated partners in preserving this unique and threatened habitat,” said Kurth. “It will provide a focal point for mountain bog conservation in the area, and highlights the importance of our National Wildlife Refuge System in preserving our nation’s spectacular biodiversity for future generations of Americans.”

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Stakeholder Information: Update on the Service's Work to Designate Critical Habitat for Two Arkansas Mussels

April 22, 2015

Neosho Mucket with red lure exposed

Neosho mucket uses a minnow lure to attract a host fish (bass) for its larvae, credit Chris Barnhart/Missouri State University.

Please join the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday, April 29 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern/ 2:30 p.m. Central for an update on the Service’s work to designate critical habitat for the Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot mussels.

Rob Tawes, Acting Chief, Division of Conservation and Classification, Southeast Region
Chris Davidson, Supervisor, Endangered Species Program, Arkansas Ecological Services Field Office
What: Status update on critical habitat for Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot mussels followed by a Q&A session
When: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. ET/ 2:30 p.m. Central
Where: Call: 1-888-316-9407; Passcode: Mussel

Details: The Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot, native freshwater mussels, were federally listed under the Endangered Species Act on September 17, 2013. The Neosho mucket is endangered and the rabbitsfoot is threatened. Neosho mucket is found in Arkansas River basin while the rabbitsfoot has a larger geographic range encompassing 13 states from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma. The listing of the two mussels triggered a requirement to consider designating critical habitat. The Service proposed critical habitat for Neosho mucket in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. For rabbitsfoot, critical habitat was proposed in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

Additional information about the Neosho mucket and critical habitat is available at:

Additional information about rabbitsfoot and its critical habitat will be available at:

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Last updated: April 29, 2015