Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 2, 2018

Contact: Rachael Curran, (727) 537-0802,

Lawsuit Seeks Habitat Protection for Four Mussels in Northeast, Midwest, South

Protecting Endangered Animals' Habitat Would Safeguard Water Quality

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to protect critical habitat for four endangered freshwater mussels that live in 18 different states.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., noted that the biggest threats to the rayed bean, sheepnose, snuffbox and spectaclecase mussels are habitat loss and fragmentation resulting from dams, development and poor water quality. The mussels occur in New York, West Virginia, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

“Freshwater mussels need healthy rivers and streams to survive, but the Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to protect these waterways,” said Rachael Curran, an attorney with the Center. “Safeguarding the places where mussels live ensures clean water for the rest of us.”

The Service determined the mussels were endangered due to habitat loss in 2012, yet failed to designate critical habitat. Six years later the Service has still not proposed critical habitat, leaving the mussels’ shrinking habitats at risk.

North America is in the midst of a mussel extinction crisis. The eastern United States has more species of freshwater mussels than anywhere in the world, but 70 percent of them are at risk of extinction.

Freshwater mussels are the most endangered group of organisms on the continent because they are highly sensitive to water pollution and feed by filtering water through their bodies.

Protection of critical habitat for the mussels would require federal agencies that are funding or permitting projects in the mussels’ habitat to consult with the Service to ensure that habitat would not be damaged. A scientific study by the Center determined that species with federally protected critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be moving toward recovery as species without it.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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