Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office
Southeast Region
Map of the Southeast Region

Welcome to Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office


The Tennessee Field Office provides assistance to Federal and State agencies, local governments, businesses, and the general public relative to conserving, protecting, and restoring habitat for migratory birds and federally threatened and endangered species. Our assistance is typically provided through six programs: pre-development consultation, federal permits and projects, endangered species, environmental
contaminants, partners for fish and wildlife, and education/outreach.


Conservation Successes


Skinner Mountain Forest – Northern Cumberland Plateau Conservation Opportunity Area

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collaborated with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, The Conservation Fund, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy to protect 14,888 acres of forest land in Fentress County.  Loss of habitat is the primary threat to most endangered and threated species.  Land acquisition can be highly effective and efficient in protecting habitats needed for the recovery of federally listed species.  This creative conservation partnership transferred a biologically rich tract of land from a timber investment organization to the public trust, while maintaining existing leases for hunting access and ensuring that future timber production will adhere to standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.  This initiative leveraged funding and authorities under the Service’s Recovery Land Acquisition and Wildlife Restoration programs and incentivized contributions from private and other non-government funding sources to meet multiple objectives including: recovery of threatened and endangered species; protection of significant karst habitat; conservation of terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity; providing public access for hunting and fishing; and maintaining a working forest that will provide job opportunities in a rural landscape. 


Barrier Removal Improves Habitat for the Nashville Crayfish in the Mill Creek Watershed

Photo credit: USFWS

The Mill Creek Watershed is located in the southern portion of Davidson County and Williamson County in Metro Nashville, Tennessee. Urbanization of this watershed has resulted in increased sedimentation and impaired water quality due to sedimentation and contaminated stormwater runoff. The stream is increasingly flashy, experiencing increased flows caused by removal of trees and development of impervious surfaces. Many stream segments within the watershed are listed as impaired on the State of Tennessee’s 303( d) list and do not meet their designated uses of fish and aquatic life, irrigation, livestock, and recreation.

To address barriers to fish and aquatic life migration through the mainstem Mill Creek, The USFWS and partners implemented barrier removal projects in 2017 and 2018.  Project design objectives met the following objectives as outlined by the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership:

-Establish, improve and maintain riparian zones by re-establishing native plant communities to improve stream bank stability, shade streams, and increase woody debris, thermal and feeding cover for mammals, roosting, nesting and feeding areas for birds, and food sources for fish and other aquatic organisms.

-Maintain and improve water quality by flood mitigation through increased floodplain connectivity, groundwater recharge, nutrient transport and recycling, pollution attenuation, and biological productivity. The project will also improve water quality by restoring channel form and function, moderate stream temperatures through improvement of width to depth ratios.

-Improve watershed connectivity by removing two darns and making upstream migration of the federally endangered Nashville crayfish (Faxonius shoupi) possible.

-Improve and maintain appropriate sediment flows by stabilizing eroding banks, re-establishing the stream's bedrock and allowing the free flow to transport sediment.

-Maintain and restore physical habitat in freshwater systems by increasing connectivity, water quality and riparian buffers to create a habitable stream for the Nashville crayfish and other important aquatic species.

These barrier removal projects were implemented by the USFWS Aquatic Habitat Restoration Team (Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery).   These projects contributed to achieving defined SARP targets by improving habitat quality, increasing habitat quantity within the 100-year floodplain, and increasing the number of stream miles that will meet the designated uses of supporting fish and aquatic life, irrigation, livestock, and recreation. Partners included the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Nashville Zoo, Mill Creek Watershed Association, and the Cumberland River Compact.


Conserving Imperiled Aquatic Species in the Upper Tennessee River Basin

A team of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists, with assistance from U.S. Geological Survey, have developed a collaborative conservation strategy examining cost-effective approaches for efforts to conserve and manage 36 imperiled freshwater fish and mussel species in the 22,360 square-mile Upper Tennessee River Basin. The strategy identifies aquatic species conservation objectives and recommends a management approach for conserving and recovering prioritized species and locations across the basin. It is designed to help the Service better integrate its efforts internally and with those of partners in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, whose missions complement the goal of maximizing conservation and recovery of imperiled aquatic species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.


Fish and Wildlife Service Announces $37.2 Million in Grants to Boost State Endangered Species Conservation Efforts - AL, AR, FL, NC, TN Receive Funding in Southeast

Painted Snake Coiled Forest Snail

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced $37.2 million in grants to 20 states to support conservation planning and acquisition of vital habitat for threatened and endangered species across the nation. The grants, awarded through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, will benefit numerous species, ranging from the Cahaba shiner to the red-cockaded woodpecker.  

Read the New Release (.pdf)


Enduring Investments
North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area

North Chickamauga Creek

A picturesque view of bluffs along Cain Creek with chokeberry in the foreground

During September and October of 2013, staff from the Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office enjoyed opportunities to assist botanists from the Tennessee Division of Natural Areas – Natural Heritage Program as they monitored populations of Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana) in Tennessee.  This species is found in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia on flood-scoured cobble and boulder bars and bedrock outcrops, shaped by streams draining the rugged terrain of Southern Appalachia.  One such place where botanists monitored this species is North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area – a place with a story that demonstrates the importance of partnerships for recovering species listed under the Endangered Species Act.   Read more


Welcome Home, Winged Mapleleaf Mussel

winged mapleleaf reintroduction

Don Hubbs with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Sara Sorenson with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepare to return the federally endangered winged mapleleaf mussel to the Duck River in Tennessee. Photo: Chris Davidson - USFWS


An endangered mussel came home to a Tennessee River last week, a monumental reintroduction effort seven years in the making.

On Wednesday, federal and state biologists placed 103 winged mapleleaf mussels in the middle portion of the Duck River. The last time the species was seen in the river was more than two decades ago, when empty shells were collected in 1990 and 1991.

The freshwater mussel’s historical range, dating from the 1800s, is the Mississippi River and its tributaries from Minnesota to Arkansas. By the time the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the winged mapleleaf as endangered in 1991, its only known population was in the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Since then, four additional populations were found in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

Partners in the reintroduction effort with the Service are the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Missouri State University, and the Kansas City Zoo.

Service biologist Chris Davidson, the Southeast Regional lead for the winged mapleleaf mussel, said reintroducing the species to rivers within its historical range (such as the Duck River) is one of the recovery goals for the species.

“It took seven years to identify suitable fish hosts in the southern portion of the species’ range,” said Davidson. “Then we had to work out some kinks with propagation and ‘grow out’ techniques.”

One effort was an attempt to “grow out” the juvenile mussels in the Saline River (southern Arkansas), rather than a hatchery or zoo facility.

The young mussels – all about two and a half years old – have traveled more than some people. They were produced from fertilized females found in Arkansas’ Saline River, which were then brought to Missouri State University. At the university’s mussel propagation center, the female mussels expelled their larvae onto a channel catfish. The larvae have a parasitic stage where they must attach to catfish gills until they mature into tiny, juvenile mussels and drop off the host fish. Channel catfish and blue catfish are the only suitable fish hosts for winged mapleleaf.

The juvenile mussels remained at the university for about six months. They then were transferred to the Kansas City Zoo where they continued growing for another two years.

Davidson said the probability of survival is good because the mussels are more than two years old.

Future winged mapleleaf mussels for reintroduction in the Duck River will be grown at the Service’s Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery in Louisiana.

The Duck River was selected in part because it’s close to the Saline and Ouachita rivers in Arkansas, where two of the five populations of winged mapleleaf are found. The Duck River has high mussel density and diversity, plenty of channel and blue catfish, and no invasive zebra mussels, which have out-competed native species in other rivers.

One more good reason to pick the Duck River: Tennessee has long-term monitoring sites there, and will be able to track the mussels’ progress. Biologists tagged, or laser engraved, unique numbers to these mussels, which will help identify the mussels when they are later recaptured in the monitoring effort.

For more information about the winged mapleleaf mussel species, visit:http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/clams/winge_fc.html.


The Harpeth River Restoration Project Recognized with 2013 Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award

harpeth river award group

From left to right:
Bob Martineau, TDEC Commissioner, Steve Alexander, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bill Reeves, TN Wildlife Resources Agency, Frank Fiss, TN Wildlife Resources Agency (in back), Jane Polansky, TDEC Scenic Rivers Program Coordinator, Dr. Ken Moore, City of Franklin Mayor, Dorie Bolze, Harpeth River Watershed Association, Executive Director, Ronnie Bowers, TDEC, Lindsay Gardner, Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, Governor Bill Haslam

The Harpeth River Restoration Project was recently recognized with the 2013 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award for Excellence in Natural Heritage.  "The Harpeth River Restoration Project represents a major initiative in restoring and enhancing one of Tennessee's increasingly valuable and scenic rivers...this project illustrates how it is possible to restore the natural flow and ecology of a river system"  (TDEC, 2013).  Representatives from almost every partner organization were on hand for the Governor’s luncheon on June 25 to accept the award along with other awardees this year.  What a great way to cap off the completion of the project!


Free Flow Restored to the Harpeth River

Harpeth River Dam Removal

Since 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has cooperatively worked with the Harpeth River Watershed Association, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and other partners to address water quality impairments and habitat degradation in the Harpeth River Watershed. These collaborative efforts have produced innovative strategies designed to improve the overall health of the watershed while providing enhanced recreational opportunities for the region.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state agencies, and non-governmental organizations are restoring the free flow of the river and important habitat on the Harpeth River. This project will remove the only barrier on the Harpeth River to reconnect the entire river for fish passage, restore natural fish habitat, stabilize eroding river banks in the 2,000 feet of the river in the vicinity of the lowhead dam, and maintain the City of Franklins drinking water withdrawal. The Harpeth River is a State designated Scenic River and is one of the most archeologically and historically-significant rivers in the State.

The Service provided approximately $350,000 through the Fish Passage Program, National Fish Habitat Action Plan, and Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership. The Service is also making in-kind contributions by monitoring aquatic habitats after removal of the dam and the restoration of this reach of the Harpeth River. Many partners were involved in making this project a model for conservation success. A "Dam Cam" has been set up to record the removal with time lapse photography and is available online at http://www.harpethriver.org/


View the Tennessee Wildside video about the project.


Centennial Park Restoration Project

Centennial Park ribbon cutting photo

(L to R) Debbie Duren (NRDAR Program Manager, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation); Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill (TDEC Bureau of Parks and Recreation); Dennis Gregg (Obed Watershed Community Association); Mayor J.H. Graham III, Moria Painter (NPS Obed Wild and Scenic River): Niki Nicholas (Superintendent, Big South Fork NRRA), and Steve Alexander (FWS, Tennessee Field Office)

In 2002, there was a significant oil and natural gas well blowout and spill into Clear Creek, a tributary of the Obed Wild and Scenic River in Tennessee.  A Trustee Council comprised of the National Park Service, the State of Tennessee, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was formed to assess natural resource injuries pursuant to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”), 33 U.S.C. §§2701, 2706, and 15 CFR Part 990.  The Trustee Council developed a Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (DARP) and an Environmental Assessment that documented natural resource injuries associated with the spill and presented to the public potential restoration projects to compensate for those injuries.  One of the restoration projects proposed in the DARP involves active stormwater management through the modification of existing drainage channels and the construction of wetlands/rain gardens within the City of Crossville’s Centennial Park.  These stormwater drainage channels discharge to a tributary of the Little Obed River at several locations within the park.  The Obed River downstream of Crossville is also federally designated critical habitat for the threatened spotfin chub.

Read more


Conservation Success:

Tennessee Purple Coneflower Delisted

TN Purple Coneflower

Photo Credit: Geoff Call - USFWS

Thanks to the efforts of many partners who have worked together for more than 30 years to expand and protect this sunflower’s colonies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is removing the Tennessee purple coneflower from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants in 30 days, by September 2, 2011.  This plant is found in the limestone barrens and cedar glades of Davidson, Rutherford, and Wilson Counties. 

Read More (News Release)

Final Rule

Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan

Listen to a podcast about the story of recovering the coneflower.





Current Topics:


Indiana Bat

White Nose Syndrome

Working with Bats in Tennessee

indiana bat sites map


Animals being considered for the endangered species list

Sequatchie caddisfly

Tennessee cave beetles

White-fringeless orchid


Tools for
Project Review



Endangered Species List
by County, Quadrangle or Watershed

Threatened and Endangered Species in Tennessee

Check for the presence of Endangered Species in your project area with IPac

Scope for wetlands in your project area with the National Wetlands Inventory Mapper

Critical Habitat
What is Critical Habitat? (.pdf)
Critical Habitat Mapper

USFWS Clearance to Proceed with Projects letter


Documents and Notices

Bald Eagle Management Guidelines and Conservation Measures

Windpower Guidance for Bald Eagle Management

5 Year Review for the Painted Snake Coiled Forest Snail

Spring Creek Bladderpod Recovery Plan


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Last updated: July 26, 2021
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