The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to Protect the Suwannee Moccasinshell
The Suwannee moccasinshell (Medionidus walkeri) is a small freshwater mussel found only in the Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia. Its range historically included the lower and middle Suwannee River mainstem, and two large tributary rivers—the Santa Fe River subbasin and the lower Withlacoochee River mainstem.
Its range has declined in recent decades, however, and the species is presently known only from the middle reach of the Suwannee River and the lower Santa Fe River in Florida. In addition to a decline in range, its numbers are considerably lower now than a few decades ago.
The stream habitats of freshwater mussels are vulnerable to degradation and modification from a number of threats associated with human activities. The Suwannee moccasinshell’s environment has been impacted by reduced flows as a result of groundwater extraction and drought, polluted runoff from agricultural lands, pollutants discharged or accidentally released from industries, mines, and sewage treatment facilities, and channel instability as a result of changes to land use and other perturbations.
Suwannee River, Florida
Credit: B. Hamstead, USFWS
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the Suwannee moccasinshell as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2015. At this time, a final rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register in October 2016.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will also be making a proposed critical habitat determination for the Suwannee moccasinshell in fiscal year 2016. Once a proposed critical habitat rule has been fully developed, it will be published it in the Federal Register. There will be an opportunity to comment on the proposed rule during a 60-day public comment period.