October 1, 2003
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a recovery plan for seven freshwater mussels listed on the federal threatened and endangered species list. This final plan incorporates new information and addresses comments provided by reviewers of the draft plan released in July, 2003.
These seven mussels occur only in a few river basins in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia: the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint, Ochlockonee, Suwannee, and Econfina Creek basins. At one time, they were more widely distributed in hundreds of stream miles in these basins.
This plan describes what is needed for the conservation of these seven mussels, establishes recovery criteria for downlisting or delisting each species, and estimates the time and cost for implementing the needed recovery measures. All seven mussels were listed in March 1998.
Changes to the habitats of these seven species is the mostly likely cause for their decline in range and abundance. Habitat changes have included pollution, the construction of dams and other impoundments, gravel mining, and sedimentation. Genetic factors associated with the increasingly small and isolated populations and the introduction of alien species also may present obstacles to their recovery.
Because mussels continuously siphon water while filtering for food, they accumulate chemicals in their bodies and shells, including contaminants present in their surroundings. This activity makes mussels good indicators of the health of streams they inhabit. Mussels are also important as food sources for a variety of mammals, birds, fish, and turtles.
Copies of the plan can be obtained by writing to the Panama City Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1601 Balboa Avenue, Panama City, Florida, 32405, calling Jerry Ziewitz at 850/769-0552, ext. 223, visiting the national website at http://endangered.fws.gov, or contacting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Reference Service, 5430 Grosvenor Lane, Suite 110, Bethesda, Maryland, 20814, (301) 492-6403 or (800) 582-3421. The fee for the plan varies.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge system of 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource 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.
NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http://southeast.fws.gov. Our national home page is at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.
Atlanta, GA 30345