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Much to My Shagreen, a Snail Won the Race
Photo Credit: Trey Reid, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
In the highest parts of Arkansas' Ozarks, the slow-moving Magazine Mountain shagreen snail (Inflectarius magazinensis) has won the race to become the first invertebrate to be recovered and removed from Endangered Species Act protection.
Under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, only vertebrate species could be afforded federal protection. Then, when the Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973, this landmark legislation allowed for the protection of wildlife, both vertebrates and invertebrates – including snails, mussels, crustaceans, arachnids, and insects – and eventually plants. In the Southeast alone, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is working to recover over 340 federally protected species—more than 100 of which are invertebrates.
And there is one tiny, dusky brown snail, the Magazine Mountain shagreen, that is only found on Magazine Mountain in Logan County, Arkansas. It prefers cool, moist conditions and inhabits the mountain's north and west slopes above 2,200 feet (670 meters).
The Magazine Mountain shagreen was first listed as a threatened species in 1989. It was listed primarily because of habitat loss and the possible negative effects from a military proposal to conduct troop and heavy equipment movements and artillery operations on Magazine Mountain; and development of a new state park on Magazine Mountain that would include construction of new buildings, roads, and trails and could significantly destroy or degrade the snail's habitat.
Photo Credit: Ron Caldwell, Lincoln Memorial University
The entire range of Magazine Mountain is in the Ozark Mountains and is owned by the U.S. Forest Service; they also designated portions of the mountain as a Special Interest Area to protect the snail and its habitat. The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism has a long-term special use permit from the Forest Service to operate a state park on the summit. The U.S. Forest Service also conducts annual surveys of the Magazine Mountain shagreen's population and worked cooperatively with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Service to fund life history and ecology research. These studies increased the Service's knowledge of the species' life history and more accurately mapped its habitat with new technologies.
Today, the Magazine Mountain shagreen currently lives on 27 locations on Magazine Mountain, cumulatively comprising about 22 acres (9 hectares). These populations are now considered secure from threats as Magazine Mountain is entirely owned and protected by the Forest Service and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
Monitoring results indicate that Magazine Mountain shagreen populations have remained stable since 1996. Additionally, a review of the Magazine Mountain shagreen's status shows adequate regulatory protection exists, and threats have been eliminated or reduced to the point that the species has recovered and no longer meets the definition of threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The outstanding cooperative recovery efforts, coupled with adequate regulatory protection, has eliminated or reduced threats to the snail, helping the species secure its place in history. The Service has announced that the snail has fully recovered and no longer needs federal protection. This is the ultimate goal of the ESA, and has been the end result for 26 other species. But this is the first for an invertebrate species—a new milestone for the ESA.
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