Listed Aquatic Species Proposed for Reintroduction intoTennessee’s
French Broad and Holston Rivers
As part of a broad effort to restore threatened and endangered species in the Tennessee River system, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to reintroduce 21 federally listed aquatic species – 15 mussels, 1 snail, and 5 fishes - into the French Broad and Holston Rivers in Tennessee. The proposed reintroductions will occur in the main stem of each river beginning at least 10 river miles below Douglas and Cherokee dams.
“The reintroduction of listed species into restored historical habitat has been an important recovery tool for listed species,” said Sam D. Hamilton, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “Also, because these species are being reintroduced as nonessential experimental populations, there will be no significant impacts on public or private use of the French Broad and Holston Rivers or their watersheds.”
Designations as non-essential experimental populations exempt anyone who accidentally kills or harms these animals from being in violation of the law, provided that the “take” occurs as part of an otherwise lawful activity, such as boating, fishing, or wading. Similarly, federal or federally funded projects would not be required to be altered or stopped to protect these species.
The mussels included in this proposal are the Appalachian monkeyface, birdwing pearlymussel, cracking pearlymussel, Cumberland bean, Cumberland monkeyface, dromedary pearlymussel, orange-foot pimpleback, white wartyback, Cumberlandian combshell, fine-rayed pigtoe, fanshell, oyster mussel, ring pink, rough pigtoe, and shiny pigtoe. The other aquatic species included in the proposal are the Anthony’s riversnail and five fishes: duskytail darter, pygmy madtom, slender chub, spotfin chub, and yellowfin madtom.
The lower French Broad and Holston rivers once supported a diverse fish, snail, and mussel fauna, possibly as many as 85 mussels species and subspecies, accounting for approximately 65 percent of the mussel diversity previously known to exist in the entire Tennessee River system. Of this once-rich mussel fauna, 7 species are extinct, and 15 mussels, 1 aquatic snail, and 5 fishes (the same species that are in this proposed rule) are federally listed but have disappeared from these river reaches. The only federally listed mussel still occurring in the proposed NEP area is the endangered pink mucket; it still occurs in both the lower French Broad and lower Holston Rivers. The pink mucket is not one of the 15 mussel species we are proposing to reintroduce under this NEP.
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