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Public Invited to Comment on Proposed Critical Habitat for Five Endangered Mussels and Draft Economic Analysis


October 7, 2003

Tom MacKenzie, 404-679-7291
Rob Tawes, 931-528-6481

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft report on the potential economic impacts of a proposed designation of critical habitat for five federally listed freshwater mussels in the Tennessee and Cumberland River Basins. The public is invited to submit comments on the proposed designation or draft economic analysis report by December 4, 2003.

When specifying any particular area as critical habitat, the Endangered Species Act requires the Service to consider economic and other relevant impacts of the designation. If the benefits of excluding an area outweigh the benefits of including it, the Service may exclude an area from critical habitat, unless such action would result in the extinction of any of the species in question.

Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act identifying geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. It does not allow government or public access to private lands.

The Service proposed critical habitat for the Cumberland elktoe, oyster mussel, Cumberlandian combshell, purple bean, and rough rabbitsfoot on June 3, 2003. This critical habitat proposal was completed in response to a lawsuit filed by the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project. Proposed critical habitat for the five mussels encompasses about 544 miles of river and stream channels in the following areas:

  • a section of the Duck River in Maury and Marshall Counties, Tennessee,
  • a section of Bear Creek in Colbert County, Alabama, and Tishomingo County, Mississippi,
  • a section of the Obed River in Cumberland and Morgan Counties, Tennessee,
  • a section of the Powell River in Claiborne and Hancock Counties, Tennessee and Lee County, Virginia,
  • portions of the Clinch River drainage in Hancock County, Tennessee, and Scott, Russell and Tazewell Counties, Virginia,
  • a section of the Nolichucky River in Hamblen and Cocke Counties, Tennessee,
  • a section of Beech Creek in Hawkins County, Tennessee,
  • a section of Rock Creek in McCreary County, Kentucky,
  • portions of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River drainage in McCreary County, Kentucky, and Scott, Fentress, and Morgan Counties, Tennessee,
  • a section of Buck Creek in Pulaski County, Kentucky,
  • a section of Sinking Creek in Laurel County, Kentucky,
  • a section of Marsh Creek in McCreary County, Kentucky, and
  • a section of Laurel Fork of the Cumberland River in Claiborne County, Tennessee, and Whitley County, Kentucky.
In 30 years of implementing the Endangered Species Act, the Service has found that the designation of critical habitat provides little additional protection to most listed species, while preventing the Service from using scarce conservation resources for activities with greater conservation benefits.

In almost all cases, recovery of listed species will come through voluntary cooperative partnerships, not regulatory measures such as critical habitat. Habitat is also protected through cooperative measures under the Endangered Species Act including Habitat Conservation Plans, Safe Harbor Agreements, Candidate Conservation Agreements and state programs. In addition, voluntary partnership programs such as the Service’s Private Stewardship Grants and Partners for Fish and Wildlife program also restore habitat. Habitat for endangered species is provided on many national wildlife refuges, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife management areas.

Copies of the draft economic analysis for the critical habitat designation or the proposed designation of critical habitat for the five mussels can be obtained from the Tennessee Field Office website at: or by contacting Rob Tawes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 446 Neal Street, Cookeville, TN 38501; phone 931-528-6481, extension 213.

The Federal Register notice can be found at:

The comment period announced in the proposed rule has been reopened to allow a 60-day comment period on the draft economic analysis and the proposed designation including a correction and possible 4 mile extension to the Rock Creek proposed critical habitat unit (Unit 8). Written comments and information should be mailed, faxed, or delivered in person to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: Rob Tawes, 446 Neal Street, Cookeville, TN 38501; fax 931-528-7075; or sent by electronic mail to

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource 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 that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. Visit the Service’s website at Visit our Southeastern website at

Draft Economic Analysis for Five Endangered Mussels, 9-2003 -- (pdf file-1.92kb)

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