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Two outstretched hands holding a light red colored crayfish by the claws
Information icon Nashville crayfish. Photo by Phil Kloer, USFWS.

Nashville crayfish proposed delisting is a hometown success story

Local stakeholders partner with Service to protect and recover crayfish found in the heart of America’s music city

The Nashville crayfish lives in only one place in the world: the Mill Creek watershed in metropolitan Nashville. Despite the urban setting, the crayfish is doing just fine. So much so that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to delist it under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), following a science-based status review. The review found that populations are healthy, stable and robust and that it no longer meets the definition of an endangered or a threatened species under the ESA.

A stream meanders through a forest.
Mill Creek watershed. Photo by Phil Kloer, USFWS.

The recovery of the crayfish is due to ESA-inspired partnerships following its listing in the mid-1980s. Pitching in to help conserve and recover the crayfish were the Nashville Zoo, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), Mill Creek Watershed Association, private landowners and local developers.

“Any time we are able to work with diverse stakeholders to successfully recover a species is a good day,” said Service Regional Director Leo Miranda. “Overcoming conservation challenges and recovering species is very often due to ESA-inspired collaborations, and our success with the Nashville crayfish is certainly no exception. The ESA continues to be a dynamic tool for recovering wildlife, even in the nation’s urban settings.”

Nashville stakeholders have been instrumental in helping recover the city’s namesake crayfish, protecting and restoring Mill Creek and its tributaries, raising awareness about threats to the crayfish and its habitat, and supporting sustainable development near the creek.

The Nashville Zoo also removed two dams on the Cathy Jo Branch in collaboration with the Cumberland River Compact, TWRA and KCI Technologies Inc. The dams were located on zoo property and had created a barrier to crayfish and other small aquatic life, preventing upstream migration and reducing biodiversity of the stream. These dam removals opened up three miles of habitat and transformed the stream into a free-flowing system again. The Nashville crayfish now has access to 10 miles of creek and improved habitat.

Although the crayfish was listed as endangered in 1986, numerous surveys located the species throughout the watershed, including in some waters where it had not previously been found.

The Nashville crayfish grows to about 7 inches long and has four pairs of walking legs and two pincers, called chelae. It eats insects, worms, algae, fish eggs, snails and mussels, and is, preyed upon by raccoons, fish and reptiles. Crayfish are indicator species for clean water and healthy rivers that support countless wildlife species and a healthy environment and local communities that also depend on clean abundant water resources.

After the public comment period, if a final delisting rule is published, the Mill Creek Watershed would still be federally protected by the Clean Water Act and by state and local regulations.

The Service is also announcing the availability of a draft post-delisting monitoring (PDM) plan for the crayfish. The plan monitors the crayfish for five years after it is delisted. We seek information, data and comments from the public regarding the proposal to delist this species and on the draft PDM plan.

The proposed rule, draft PDM plan and supporting documents (including the Species Status Assessment (SSA), references cited, five year review are available at under Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2018-0062. We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before January 27, 2020. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown below by January 10, 2020.


Phil Kloer, Public Affairs Specialist, (404) 679-7299

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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