January 28, 1998
Diana M. Hawkins or
Vicki M. Boatwright


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comments on a draft recovery plan for the endangered spruce-fir moss spider. The small, light brown to reddish brown tarantula gets its name from the spruce-fir forests it inhabits in the Appalachian mountains. It was listed as endangered on the Federal list of endangered and threatened species in 1995.

Populations of the spruce-fir moss spider once lived on at least five different mountain peaks in the southern Appalachian mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. Today, however, only two small populations remain -- one on Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina and another on Tennessee's Mount LeConte.

"This species faces a double threat," says Sam Hamilton, the Service's Southeast Regional Director. "Its own populations are declining and its already rare and specialized habitat is fast disappearing."

The typical habitat of the spruce-fir moss spider is found in well-drained moss mats growing on well-shaded rocks and boulders in mature, high-elevation, conifer forests dominated by Fraser fir and scattered red spruce. Stands of these trees are being destroyed due to infestations of the balsam woolly adelgid, an exotic insect pest. Air pollution is also suspected of being a factor. In addition, the spider needs high and constant humidity and the loss of forest canopy has led to increased light and decreased moisture on the forest floor. According to Hamilton, this species will remain in jeopardy of extinction unless habitat loss is contained, existing populations are maintained and former populations are reestablished.

The draft recovery plan describes actions considered necessary for the conservation of the spruce-fir moss spider, establishes criteria for recognizing the recovery levels for downlisting or delisting the species and estimates the time and cost for implementing the recommended recovery measures. Major objectives of the recovery plan are to protect currently occupied habitat, restore historical habitat for reintroduction of the species, conduct applied research, and increase public awareness.

The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to recover species to levels where protection under the Act is no longer necessary. Recovery plans, which are blueprints for action by Federal and state agencies and private organizations, do not obligate the expenditure of funds or require that actions be implemented. Future conservation efforts for the spruce-fir moss spider will require the voluntary cooperation of Federal, State, and local agencies, species experts, landowners, and other concerned citizens.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages 511 national wildlife refuges covering 92 million acres, as well as 67 national fish hatcheries.

The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, administers the Endangered Species Act, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes Federal excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies. This program is a cornerstone of the Nation's wildlife management efforts, funding fish and wildlife restoration, boating access, hunter education, shooting ranges, and related projects across America.

The Service welcomes public comments on the spruce-fir moss spider's draft recovery plan through March 23, 1998. They can be mailed to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801. Copies of the plan can be obtained by writing the above address, or by calling 704/258-3939. The Service published a notice of availability of the draft recovery plan for the spruce-fir moss spider in the Federal Register on January 20, 1998.


Release #: R98-006

1998 News Releases

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