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Agency Draft Recovery Plan for Five Freshwater Mussels Available for Review


April 22, 2003

Jim Rothschild, 404/679-7291 or 678/296-6272 cell
Bob Butler, 828/258-3939, Ext. 235

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comments on an Agency Draft Recovery Plan (Plan) to recover five endangered freshwater mussel species--Cumberland elktoe (Alasmidonta atropurpurea), oyster mussel (Epioblasma capsaeformis), Cumberlandian combshell (Epioblasma brevidens), purple bean (Villosa perpurpurea), and rough rabbitsfoot (Quadrula cylindrica strigillata).

This Plan describes actions considered necessary for the conservation of these five mussel species, establishes criteria for recognizing the recovery levels for downlisting or delisting each species, and estimates the time and cost for implementing the recovery measures needed. These five species of mussels were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, on January 10, 1997.

All five species once existed in hundreds of stream miles, but now survive in only a few relatively small isolated populations in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia. Today, these species are restricted to either the Cumberland River system (Cumberland elktoe), the Tennessee River system (purple bean and rough rabbitsfoot), or both of these river systems (oyster mussel and Cumberlandian combshell). Habitat alteration continues to be the major threat to the continued existence for each of these species.

Because mussels continuously siphon water while filtering for food, they accumulate chemicals in their bodies and shells, including contaminants present in their surroundings. This activity makes mussels good indicators of the health of streams they inhabit. Mussels are also important as food sources for a variety of mammals, birds, fish and turtles.

Copies of the plan can be obtained by writing to the Asheville Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801, or by calling Mr. Bob Butler at 828/258-3939, Ext. 235. Comments must be received in the Asheville Field Office by June 23, 2003.

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 the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which is comprised of more than 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management offices, and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

Draft Recovery Plan

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