Critical Habitat Designated for Five Freshwater Mussels
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is designating approximately 550 river miles in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky, as critical habitat for five federally-listed freshwater mussels. All five were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, on January 10, 1997.
The species include the endangered Cumberland elktoe, oyster mussel, Cumberlandian combshell, purple bean, and rough rabbitsfoot mussels. The 13 river and stream segments identified in the critical habitat proposal for the five mussels include:
The Service proposed critical habitat for these five mussels on June 3, 2003. In light of new information, the proposal was revised on Oct. 6, 2003, to include additional river miles in Rock Creek (Unit 8) in Kentucky. The Service considered all public and peer- reviewed comments received during the public comment periods, as well as the economic analysis in finalizing the rule.
Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act identifying geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. It does not allow government or public access to private lands.
This critical habitat designation
was completed in response to a lawsuit filed by the Southern Appalachian
In almost all cases, recovery of listed species will come through voluntary cooperative partnerships, not regulatory measures such as critical habitat. Habitat is also protected through cooperative measures under the Endangered Species Act including Habitat Conservation Plans, Safe Harbor Agreements, Candidate Conservation Agreements and state programs. In addition, voluntary partnership programs such as the Services Private Stewardship Grants and Partners for Fish and Wildlife program also restore habitat.
Habitat for endangered species is provided on many national wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas. As listed species under the Endangered Species Act, these mussels are already protected wherever they occur and Federal agencies are required to consult on any action taken that might affect them.
Most public use of habitat for these five species will not be affected by this designation. Most activities such as recreational boating, canoeing, swimming, and fishing would not likely involve a Federal action that may affect critical habitat and, therefore, would not likely trigger a consultation requirement.
When determining areas to designate as critical habitat, the Service considers physical and biological habitat features that are essential to the conservation of the species. These features include space for individual and population growth and for normal behavior; cover or shelter; food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or physiological requirements; sites for spawning and rearing offspring; and habitats that are protected from disturbances or are representative of the historic geographical and ecological distributions of a species.
As part of designating
critical habitat, the Service also takes into account the economic
impact, impact to national security, as well as any other relevant
impacts, of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. The
Service may exclude any area from critical habitat if it is determined
that the benefits of excluding the area outweigh the benefits of including
the area as a part of critical habitat, unless it is determined that
failure to designate the area as critical habitat will result in the
extinction of the species.
A complete description of the critical habitat designation was published in the Federal Register today. Copies of the rule and maps are available by contacting Timothy Merritt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 446 Neal Street, Cookeville, Tenn. 38501; phone 931-528-6481, ext. 211, or on the Internet at http://cookeville.fws.gov.
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, which encompasses
544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other
special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries,
64 fishery resources offices and 81 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 and Native American tribal governments
with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance
program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise
taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife
agencies. Visit the Services Web site at http://www.fws.gov.
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