The Birmingham News, November 2, 2010
Safety act to protect two snails, mussel in Alabama waters
By Thomas Spencer
The two snails and a mussel that occur in Alabama waters will be protected beginning today under the Endangered Species Act, according to an advance notice of rules to be issued today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Georgia pigtoe mussel, the interrupted rocksnail and the rough hornsnail will be designated as endangered. All three are native to the Coosa River basin of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
The service has designated 160 river miles as critical habitat for the animals, including stretches of the Coosa River and Terrapin, Hatchet and Yellowleaf creeks in Alabama, as well as the Oostanaula river in Georgia and the Conasauga River in Georgia and Tennessee.
The river stretches include waterways in Cherokee, Clay, Coosa, Elmore and Shelby counties. Of particular interest in the metro area is Yellowleaf Creek in Shelby County, which is one of only two locations where the rough hornsnail is known to exist.
The addition of the three species native to Alabama is part of a batch of five species listings being released by FWS. The service has been under pressure to add species to the list known to be endangered.
The Tuscon, Ariz., based Center for Biological Diversity filed suit in September to obtain final listing of the two snails and mussel and has litigation ongoing over Fish and Wildlife's delay of protection for all the candidate species.
"The Southeast is known internationally as (a) hotspot of aquatic biodiversity and Alabama's biodiversity in particular is known to be comparable to anywhere in the world," said Noah Greenwald, a spokesman from the center. Despite an already long list of endangered aquatic species in the state, hundreds more should qualify for protection, according to the center.
Greenwald said the service has been slow to add species to the list for three reasons. One is a question of money. The service has roughly $11 million a year for endangered species protection work. Second, a large backlog of candidate species exists. And third, Greenwald said, the service lacks the political will to take the sometimes controversial step of adding a species to the protected list.
Once a species is listed under the act, federal agencies conducting construction or dredging activities that could disrupt the species' habitat are required to confer with FWS to prevent harm to the species. The Endangered Species Act can also prohibit citizens from taking actions that would kill the species or destroy the habitat, Greenwald said.
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