FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE RELEASE
March 16, 1998

Contact: Diana M. Hawkins

SEVEN SOUTHEAST FRESHWATER MUSSELS
ADDED TO THE FEDERAL LIST
OF ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE

Seven freshwater mussels native to Alabama, Florida. and Georgia have been added to the Federal list of endangered and threatened species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Director Sam Hamilton announced today . The fat threeridge, shinyrayed pocketbook, Gulf moccasinshell, and oval pigtoe mussels are listed as endangered and the Chipola slabshell and purple bankclimber are listed as threatened.

The Endangered Species Act defines a threatened species as likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future, while an endangered species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

Mussels are generally the first animals to be lost when water quality deteriorates. Hamilton recalls that the late Mollie Beattie, former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, called them Anature=s 911.@ If individuals can protect and restore a river=s mussel fauna, people will have clean water for domestic and agricultural water supply needs, and rivers will be able to provide for many other recreational and social needs, he said.

These species can be found at scattered sites in the Apalachicola-Flint-Chattahoochee river system in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, the Ochlockonee River system in Georgia and Florida, and the Yellow and Santa Fe rivers in Florida. All seven species are found in small numbers at nearly every site, and there is little or no evidence of reproduction. Their numbers and distribution have decreased due to habitat loss associated with reservoir construction, channel construction and maintenance, and erosion.

Hamilton said that there are currently more than 60 species of mussels listed in the United States and noted that listings have had little effect on private activities such as forestry, agriculture, land development, and home construction. ABased on this historical perspective, the Service anticipates that the listing of these species will not significantly impact private landowners,@ he said.

The continental United States contains the world=s greatest diversity of freshwater mussels C 297 individual species. However, mussels have declined more than any other group of wide-ranging native animals. The Nature Conservancy recognizes 55 percent of the United States mussel fauna as imperiled, compared with only 7 percent of our nation=s birds and mammals.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages more than 94 million acres of land and water consisting of 512 national wildlife refuges, 65 national fish hatcheries, 38 wetland management districts with waterfowl production areas, and 50 wildlife coordination areas.

The agency also enforces Federal wildlife laws, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat, such as wetlands, administers the Endangered Species Act, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts.

Numerous programs are underway to restore our native mussel fauna:

Federal, state, and private funds are being provided to cooperating landowners to restore stream-side habitats in important mussel streams;

mussel propagation technology is being developed;

mussels are being reintroduced into historic habitats; and

research is being conducted to better understand how human activities impact upon mussel populations.

Hamilton said that mussels will be eligible for Federal funding for conservation and recovery activities. Listing, he said, draws attention to their plight and he encouraged Federal and state agencies, local governments, conservation organizations, and private citizens to take an active role in their protection.

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Release #: R98-017


1998 News Releases

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