Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 25, 2014

Contact:  Collette Adkins Giese, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821
Heather Brouillet Navarro, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, (314) 727-0600
Bruce Morrison, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, (314) 231-4181

Management Plan Amended to Protect Ozark Hellbenders,
Other Rare Species on Missouri's Mark Twain National Forest

COLUMBIA, Mo.— The U.S. Forest Service today finalized amendments to the management plan for Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest to protect rare and endangered species, including the Ozark hellbender. The changes respond to a 2013 notice of intent to sue filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Missouri Coalition for the Environment, which prompted the Forest Service to analyze impacts of forest management on newly listed endangered species.

Ozark hellbender
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Brian Gratwicke. This photo is available for media use.

“These changes mean healthier waterways, and that’s good news for the Ozark hellbender,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a biologist and attorney at the Center. “To save the hellbender, we have to protect the rivers that people treasure, too, for drinking water, fishing and boating.”

Management of the Mark Twain National Forest is guided by a forest plan prepared in 2005. In 2013, in response to the conservation groups’ notice of intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act, the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to revisit the 2005 plan to consider impacts on newly designated endangered species and critical habitat, including the listing of the Ozark hellbender and two mussels — called the “spectaclecase” and “snuffbox” — as endangered and the designation of critical habitat for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly and Tumbling Creek cavesnail.

The amendments restrict in-stream activities that could harm the waterways where the Ozark hellbender lives. For example, the Forest Service must modify or relocate projects — such as bridges or boat ramps — that could disturb hellbenders or their habitat. And because of concerns about sedimentation, heavy equipment cannot be used in occupied habitat. Additional amendments serve to protect an endangered plant — running buffalo clover — that was discovered on the Forest, as well as three additional bat species that were recently added to the regional forester’s sensitive species list.

“We’re glad to see the Forest Service taking steps to protect our waterways because what happens to the Ozark hellbender happens to us,” said Heather Brouillet Navarro, executive director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

About one-third of known locations of the Ozark hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi) occur on the Mark Twain National Forest. Because populations have plummeted due to water-quality degradation, the Fish and Wildlife Service added the Ozark hellbender to the endangered species list in October 2011, in accordance with a historic settlement agreement with the Center. This salamander — at nearly 2 feet long, one of the largest in the world — is uniquely adapted to aquatic life, with a flattened body that allows it to cling to river bottoms in strong currents.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) state-level conservation organization, is a force for clean air, clean water and clean energy in Missouri. Since 1969 we have educated and activated Missourians to protect the land we all love.

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing free and reduced-fee public interest legal services to individuals and organizations working to protect and preserve Missouri's environment.

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