Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office
Southwest Region


This is the web site of the Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office. Use the links to the left or at the bottom to browse the sections of this and related sites. Below are some news and updates regarding the activities of this office.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finalizes Critical Habitat for Two Freshwater Mussels, Neosho Mucket and Rabbitsfoot

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has finalized critical habitat designations for the endangered Neosho mucket and the threatened rabbitsfoot. Both species are freshwater mussels found in river systems in the eastern half of the United States. The Service also announces the availability of its final economic analysis, an environmental assessment, and other materials used in preparation of the final decisions. Service authority for designating critical habitat is provided under the Endangered Species Act.

The Federal Register designation is located here

The 38 critical habitat areas in 12 states include 4 areas in the Service's Southwest Region, all within the State of Oklahoma. These four areas total approximately 138 river-miles in length. For the Neosho mucket, the Oklahoma areas consist of the Illinois River upstream of its confluence with Baron Creek and the Elk River upstream of Buffalo Creek. For the rabbitsfoot, the Oklahoma areas consist of a segment of the Verdigris River between Oolagah Lake Dam and Oklahoma Highway 266, and the Little River downstream of its confluence with the Glover River. The four areas involve portions of Adair, Cherokee, Delaware, McCurtain, and Rogers counties.

A fact sheet on the two mussels can be found here
Answers to frequently asked questions about the mussels' critical habitat can be found here
A news release describing the critical habitat designation, and links to additional information, can be found here

American Burying Beetle Oklahoma Range Update

The range of the American burying beetle (ABB) in Oklahoma has been updated, as a result of positive survey findings along the western edge of the ABB's range in 2014. This change results in a range expansion by 3% in Oklahoma, or an additional 576,738 acres. The updated information has been uploaded into the Service’s Information Planning and Conservation (IPaC) system, which provides the most current information on threatened and endangered species ranges. A map of the range has also been updated in the American Burying Beetle Impact Assessment for Project Reviews guidance document, which can be found on the ABB webpage. Geographic information system (GIS) shapefiles also are available on the ABB webpage.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Protects Northern Long-eared Bat as Threatened Under Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it is protecting the northern long-eared bat as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), primarily due to the threat posed by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has devastated many bat populations.

At the same time, the Service issued an interim special rule that eliminates unnecessary regulatory requirements for landowners, land managers, government agencies and others in the range of the northern long-eared bat. The public is invited to comment on this interim rule as the Service considers whether modifications or exemptions for additional categories of activities should be included in a final 4(d) rule that will be finalized by the end of the calendar year. The Service is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until July 1, 2015 and may make revisions based on additional information it receives.

The listing becomes effective on May 4, 2015, 30 days after publication of the final listing determination in the Federal Register.

Learn more here

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lists Two Freshwater Mussels, Neosho Mucket (as Endangered) and Rabbitsfoot (as Threatened)

The Federal Register listing is located here

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is listing the Neosho mucket as endangered and the Rabbitsfoot as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Both species are freshwater mussels found in river systems in the eastern half of the United States.

The Neosho mucket has been eliminated from about 62 percent of its historic range with only nine of 16 historic populations remaining. Only one of these populations is known to be reproducing. The Neosho mucket is currently found in Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

The Rabbitsfoot has disappeared from about 64 percent of its historic range. While 51 of the 140 historic populations remain, only 11 populations (22 percent of its existing populations or eight percent of the historic populations) are viable; 23 populations (45 percent of the existing populations) are at risk of elimination; and 17 populations (33 percent of the current populations) show limited reproduction with little evidence of sustainability. The Rabbitsfoot is currently found in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. The Rabbitsfoot is no longer found in Georgia and West Virginia.

The complete news release can be found here

Important Update: Service reopens Public Comment Period on Proposed Critical Habitat for the Neosho Mucket and Rabbitsfoot Mussels, with new deadline of July 14, 2014.
  • A news release describing the new comment period can be found here
  • Frequently Asked Questions about critical habitat proposed for the two mussel species can be found here
American Burying Beetle Oil and Gas Industry Conservation Plan Approved for Oklahoma

Final documents and associated information can be found here

News Release: Service Approves Industry Conservation Plan for the American Burying Beetle can be found here

Questions and Answers: Industry Conservation Plan for the American Burying Beetle can be found here

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) approved a plan to streamline the Endangered Species Act (ESA) permitting process for oil and gas activities that may result in take of the American burying beetle (ABB) in Oklahoma. The approved Industry Conservation Plan (ICP) provides industry with a mechanism to move forward with oil and gas projects in ABB habitat during the 2014 and 2015 ABB active season.

The approved ICP covers take of the ABB that is incidental to activities associated with oil and gas exploration and the construction, operation, maintenance, repair and decommissioning of oil and gas pipelines and related well fields. It provides oil and gas operators the ability to proceed with projects in covered counties while conserving the American burying beetle and its habitat. The ICP will cover construction activities for two years and operations and maintenance activities will be covered for 20 years.

Bison grazing at the Wichita Mountains NWR
Last updated: November 30, 2015
All images by FWS unless otherwise noted.