Service Proposes Endangered Species Status and Critical Habitat Designations for the Georgia Pigtoe Mussel, Interrupted Rocksnail, and Rough Hornsnail
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2009
Tom Mackenzie,, FWS, 404-679-7291, Cell: 678-296-6400, Tom_MacKenzie@fws.gov
Connie Light Dickard, 601/321-1121
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed listing the Georgia pigtoe mussel, interrupted rocksnail, and rough hornsnail as endangered species. These two aquatic snails and one mussel are considered indicators of stable, high-quality stream and river habitats. Their presence reflects the quality of the watersheds where they occur for a wide variety of other wildlife species, as well as for people.
At the same time, the Service proposed designating parts of eight rivers and streams in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, as critical habitat for the mussel and snails.
All three of these animals no longer exist in more than 90 percent of their historical ranges due to impoundments and water quality degradation. Surviving populations are small, localized, and highly vulnerable to water quality and habitat deterioration.
The Georgia pigtoe mussel historically inhabited the Coosa River and several tributaries in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Currently, the species is known to survive on shoals in a 27- mile reach of the Conasauga River in Georgia and Tennessee.
The interrupted rocksnail historically occurred on shoals in the main stem of the Coosa River in Alabama and Georgia, and in the Oostanaula and Conasauga rivers of Georgia. Currently, the species is known to survive in a 7.5-mile reach of the Oostanaula River. A population has been recently reintroduced into a short reach of the lower Coosa River in Alabama by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The rough hornsnail was found in the Coosa River and at the mouths of several tributaries in Alabama. It is currently known from two small populations in Alabama.
A federal listing as endangered under the Endangered Species Act means these species will be protected from take, including killing, harming, harassing, possessing, or removing the species from the wild. Federal agencies will be required to protect the species and their habitat; and funding, including grants to State conservation programs, will be available to support recovery actions.
The proposed critical habitat designation for these three species includes eight river and stream segments of the Coosa River and its tributaries in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. In total, approximately 160 miles of stream and river channels fall within the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat designation in Cherokee, Clay, Coosa, Elmore and Shelby counties, Alabama; Gordon, Floyd, Murray, and Whitfield counties, Georgia; and Bradley and Polk counties, Tennessee.
Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act that identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species, and which may require special management considerations or protection. Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership, establish a refuge or preserve, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.
Federal agencies that undertake, fund or permit activities that may affect critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure such actions do not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat.
The complete proposal has been published in the Federal Register today. A copy of the proposed rule can be obtained by visiting our Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov Please follow the instructions for submitting comments. With this proposal, the Service is seeking comments, suggestions, and any additional information on biology, threats, range, distribution, population size, or current or planned activities and the activities’ possible impacts on these species or their proposed critical habitats.
Public comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until August 28, 2009. Written comments on the proposal should be submitted by one of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
- U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn:.RIN Number:1018-AU88; Document ID Number: FWS-R4-ES-2008-01, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.
Written requests for a public hearing will be accepted until August 13, 2009.
A final decision on whether or not to list these three species and designate critical habitat will consider all comments and information received by the comment-period deadline.
A copy of the proposed rule and other information about the Georgia pigtoe, interrupted rocksnail, and rough hornsnail is available on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/policy/library/E9-15236.html or by contacting the Jackson, Mississippi Field Office at 601/321-1121.
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. Visit the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov or http://www.fws.gov/southeast/