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Center for Biological Diversity:
Southeast Freshwater Extinction Crisis 

Birmingham News, April 7, 2014

Rare Alabama crawfish at center of legal fight between feds, environmentalists
By Steve Doyle

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- A rare crayfish thought to exist in a single body of water near Lake Guntersville is at the center of a legal fight.

The Center for Biological Diversity announced Monday that it intends to sue the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for failing to add Alabama's slenderclaw crayfish to the list of federally-endangered species.

The center filed a petition in 2010 to have the crayfish protected under the Endangered Species Act, but it says the wildlife service "has failed to make a decision on its protection as required by law."

"Crayfish may be small, but they play a big role in the wild places where they live," Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a Monday news release. "Sadly, the slenderclaw crayfish in Alabama is in serious trouble.

"If these guys are going to have a fighting chance at survival, they need the full protection of the Endangered Species Act," said Curry.

Most of the slenderclaw crayfish's natural habitat was flooded when the Tennessee River was dammed in 1939 to create Lake Guntersville. Scientists recently surveyed 55 locations around the lake but found the tiny crustacean at just one spot.

Water pollution from nutrients, bacteria and heavy metals may be contributing to the crayfish's decline, the center said.

Also known as crawdads, crawfish, mudbugs and freshwater lobsters, crayfish dig holes in river and stream beds that are used as habitat by more than 400 other species including bass, catfish, frogs and small mammals. Crayfish also help keep streams clean by eating decaying plants and animals, and they are eaten in turn by fish, giant salamanders and otters.

In its news release, the center said the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service determined in 2011 that the slenderclaw crayfish "may warrant" Endangered Species Act protection.

The agency will be required to make a final decision in response to the new lawsuit, it said.


© 2014 Alabama Media Group.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton