Press Release
Service Proposes to List Brawleys Fork Crayfish with 4(d) Rule, Designate Critical Habitat
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Following a review of the best available science, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the Brawleys Fork crayfish as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service is also proposing a 4(d) rule and designation of approximately 86.6 river miles (rmi) (139.4 river kilometers (rkm)) as critical habitat for the species. The Service is seeking comments on these proposed actions and accompanying documents.  

"The Brawleys Fork crayfish, which is only found in Tennessee, needs help," said the Service's Acting Regional Director, Mike Oetker.  "For 50 years, the ESA has been helping to protect species from extinction. Today, we propose to list the species as threatened to help this species persist. Together, we can make a difference. Our Partners for Fish and Wildlife program is currently working with landowners on two projects that will benefit the habitat proposed as critical habitat and ultimately the crayfish itself," he added. 

A small, freshwater species endemic to the Nashville Basin and Eastern Highland Rim ecoregions of central Tennessee, the Brawleys Fork crayfish is known to occur in 20 streams in five watersheds within its range in Cannon, Warren, and Rutherford Counties, Tennessee. 

Brawleys Fork crayfish populations are faced with current and ongoing threats of habitat loss and degradation due to sedimentation and water quality from sources including agricultural practices, horticultural practices, and urbanization; and, instream modification including impoundments, gravel dredging, and channel alteration. Each of the threats influencing Brawleys Fork crayfish viability may be further exacerbated by the effects of small, isolated populations and the future effects of climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

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For a threatened species, the Service may use the flexibility provided under the ESA’s Section 4(d) to tailor take prohibitions to those that provide conservation benefits for the species – referred to as a 4(d) rule. The proposed 4(d) rule provides exceptions to incidental take prohibitions to accommodate permitted activities and other exceptions to prohibitions. These include channel restoration projects that create natural, physically stable, ecologically functioning streams; bank stabilization projects; and bridge and culvert replacements and low head dam removals. It would also except incidental take resulting from transportation projects that provide fish passage fish passage
Fish passage is the ability of fish or other aquatic species to move freely throughout their life to find food, reproduce, and complete their natural migration cycles. Millions of barriers to fish passage across the country are fragmenting habitat and leading to species declines. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Fish Passage Program is working to reconnect watersheds to benefit both wildlife and people.

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at stream crossings. 

When a species is listed under the ESA, the Service is required, where possible, to identify areas essential to the conservation of that species, known as critical habitat. The proposed critical habitat for the Brawleys Fork crayfish is located in Cannon, Warren, and Rutherford counties, Tennessee, and consists of approximately 86.6 rmi (139.4 rkm) in six critical habitat units. All proposed critical habitat units are currently occupied by the Brawleys Fork crayfish. The areas proposed for critical habitat include lands under Federal (7.2 percent), private (91 percent), and State or local (1.8 percent) ownership. There are no lands under Tribal ownership in the proposed designation. The proposed critical habitat does not overlap with any other proposed or designated critical habitat, and no other listed species co-occur in the proposed units. 

Critical habitat designation requires federal agencies to ensure that actions they plan to undertake, fund, or authorize do not destroy or adversely modify that habitat. It does not establish a wildlife refuge, allow the government or public to access private lands, or require non-federal landowners to restore habitat or recover species. 

As required by the ESA, the Service assessed the economic impacts of this proposed critical habitat designation. The draft economic analysis found minimal costs associated with this proposed designation, limited to additional administrative costs for considering adverse modification of the Brawleys Fork crayfish’s habitat during section 7 consultations. 

The Service intends that any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best scientific data available. Therefore, we request comments or information from other concerned governmental agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. Submissions merely stating support for, or opposition to, the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination. 

For directions on how to submit comments, visit the Federal eRulemaking Portal at In the Search box, enter FWS-R4-ES-2023-0065, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Comments must be received by October 23, 2023. We must receive requests for a public hearing, in writing, at the address shown below by October 6, 2023.   

For more information on this proposal, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions.     

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Daniel Elbert, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office, 446 Neal Street, Cookeville, TN 38501-4027; telephone 931-254-9617.   Individuals in the United States who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability may dial 711 (TTY, TDD, or TeleBraille) to access telecommunications relay services. Individuals outside the United States should use the relay services offered within their country to make international calls to the point-of-contact in the United States. 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit  Connect with us on Facebook at, follow our tweets at, watch our YouTube Channel at, and download photos from our Flickr page at

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Aquatic animals
Aquatic connectivity
Aquatic environment
Endangered and/or Threatened species