For Immediate Release
May 28, 1999

Contact: Tom MacKenzie
404/679-7291

16 MUSSELS AND A SNAIL WILL BE REINTRODUCED
IN JOINT STATE AND FEDERAL EFFORT TO RESTORE MUSSEL SHOALS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to join the State of Alabama in an effort to reintroduce 16 mussels and a snail to a portion of Muscle Shoals, a 53-mile stretch of the Tennessee River that once supported 80 percent of all muscle species native to the river system. This action, along with other conservation measures, is intended to help recover the river's aquatic mollusks to the point where these species no longer require special protection.

The proposal, developed at the request of the director of the Alabama Division of Game and Fish, is part of a broad initiative that also includes habitat improvement and the rebuilding of depleted populations with the eventual goal of removing all of these species from the Federal endangered species list.

The species to be reintroduced will be classified as a "nonessential, experimental population," a classification meaning that these populations are not essential to the survival of the species, and include: Anthony's riversnail, Alabama lampmussel, birdwing pearlymussel, clubshell, crackling pearlymussel, cumberland bean pearlymussel, Cumberlandian combshell, Cumberland monkeyface pearlymussel, dromedary pearlymussel, fine-rayed pigtoe, oyster mussel, purple cat's paw pearlymussel, shiny pigtoe, tubercled-blossom pearlymussel, turgid-blossom pearlymussel, winged mapleleaf mussel, and yellow-blossom pearlymussel.

Muscle Shoals is part of the Tennessee River in Colbert and Lauderdale Counties, Alabama, an area identified by early naturalists as incomparable in its diversity of freshwater mussels. Over the years, mollusks that originally inhabited Muscle Shoals declined significantly due to water impoundments and deteriorating water quality. Work in the past several years by the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other State and Federal agencies has improved water quality. That, coupled with improvements in mussel propagation technology, indicate that a major freshwater mussel reintroduction program is feasible.

The Service anticipates that reintroduction of mollusks will not conflict with any human activity or hinder public use of the Tennessee River system. Special rules also are being proposed to stipulate there would be no violation of the Endangered Species Act for "unavoidable and unintentional taking" (killing or injuring) of any reintroduced mollusks when the taking is incidental to a legal activity such as boating, commercial navigation, commercial mussel harvesting, or fishing in accordance with State law or regulation. The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register and public comment on the proposal will be accepted throughout the 60-day public comment period.

For further information, interested citizens may contact Richard G. Biggins, Fish and Mollusk Recovery Coordinator, Fish and Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801.

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 the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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Release #: :R99-50


1999 News Releases

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