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A close-up shot of a small fish with a black line along it’s side and a bright red tip on it’s dorsal fin.
Information icon Ashy darter. Photo by Conservation Fisheries, Inc.

Thanks to conservation partnerships, two southeastern fish and a snail do not warrant Endangered Species Act protection

Due to ESA-inspired partnerships with local, state and federal stakeholders and conservation groups, threats have been addressed or reduced and populations are stable

Following extensive scientific reviews, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that three southeastern animals do not face the threat of extinction now or in the foreseeable future. Accordingly, the ashy darter, Barrens darter and Arkansas mudalia snail do not warrant Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection.

For each animal, the Service brought together a team of biologists who compiled and examined all known data and research. Their peer-reviewed findings are outlined in species status assessments (SSAs), made available today.

Every day, the ESA inspires diverse collaborations with local, state and federal agencies, industry and conservation groups. Together, these stakeholders are proactively conserving imperiled species before they require federal protections. Today’s not warranted findings represent powerful examples of this.

Ashy darter

The ashy darter’s historical range is Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. Although the number and size of ashy darter populations have declined from historic levels, recent years have seen many strong efforts to conserve the fish and its habitat. The Knoxville-based non-profit Conservation Fisheries, Inc. continue to stock ashy darters into the Tellico River. On Tennessee’s Duck River, The Nature Conservancy, through its Landowner Incentive Program, has provided money and technical assistance to protect streamside areas.

In Virginia, biologists thought the ashy darter had been eliminated following a chemical spill in the Clinch River in 1967, until it was rediscovered there in 2004. Conservation partners working to conserve this population and other endangered species in the river include a Virginia state park and The Nature Conservancy, which has purchased stream-side property. Successful efforts have also been made by The Nature Conservancy, local soil and water conservation districts, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to reduce pollution from private lands along the river.

Barrens darter

The Barrens darter only inhabits small headwater streams of the Barren Fork and the upper reaches of Charles Creek, both tributaries of the Collins River in middle Tennessee. The darter, about three inches long and tan with brown mottling, undertakes a unique reproductive strategy: the male establishes territory under flat rocks, and when females lay their eggs, cleans and guards them from predators until they hatch.

A small green fish with brownish orange fins held in two hands
Barrens darter. Photo by Emily Granstaff, USFWS.

Threats to the darter included impacts from cattle farming (erosion, turbidity, and sedimentation) and local nurseries and greenhouses (pesticides, fertilizer, and irrigation), as well as increased urbanization. The darter lives entirely on private land and the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program has worked with private landowners to bolster the darter’s habitat.

Arkansas mudalia

A small snail with a spherical shell and mottled orange body, the Arkansas mudalia is found in multiple rivers within the White River watershed in Arkansas and Missouri. The Arkansas mudalia historically occurred in the White River near Cotter, Arkansas, and in the North Fork White River watershed, which extends into Missouri. The construction of Norfork Dam in the early 1940s and Bull Shoals Dam in 1951 likely inundated a large portion of the mudalia’s original habitat and drastically changed the habitat downstream of both dams. While habitat loss and degradation remain the greatest threats to the Arkansas mudalia, there is no known evidence of these threats currently acting on the snail’s continued viability.

A snail with orange and brown striations on a twig
Arkansas mudalia. Photo by Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center.

Since 2011, Service biologists, working with state partners, have determined that 195 species in the Southeast and Northeast regions have not needed federal protections, as a direct result of this proactive conservation with partners, and improved science and understanding of threats. As part of this effort, 16 wildlife species protected under the ESA were downlisted or delisted as a result of recovery actions and intensive collaboration with diverse partners.

This effort has drawn praise for its use of incentives and flexibilities within the ESA to protect imperiled wildlife, reduce regulations and keep working lands working. It is led by the Service, 26 states that make up the Northeast and Southeastern associations of state fish and wildlife agencies, and a host of conservation groups, businesses, and utilities.


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 can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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