The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 25, 2013

Two Missouri mussels considered for endangered species list

How does a species get added to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list?

To be approved for listing, a species must be determined as a potential candidate, or a petition must be submitted. After an assessment, the species can be declared warranted as a candidate or not warranted.

If the species is found to be warranted as a candidate, the Fish and Wildlife Service must publish a proposed rule for consideration, after which the public is given a 60-day comment period. A public hearing may be held, if requested.

Such a hearing was held May 21 in Joplin regarding two of the most recent candidate listings, both mussels: the Neosho mucket, which is proposed as endangered, and the rabbitsfoot, which is proposed for listing as threatened. In a rare move, the Fish and Wildlife Service also is proposing to designate critical habitat for both mussels.

The Neosho mucket, which historically was found throughout Missouri as well as parts of Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, has been lost from 62 percent of its range, with only nine of 16 original populations remaining. Of the eight remaining stream populations of the Neosho mucket, there is only one viable population. It is in the Spring River in Missouri.

Waterways in which the Neosho mucket can be found include the Illinois River in Arkansas; the Cottonwood, Verdigris, Fall, Neosho and Spring rivers in Kansas; the Spring, North Fork Spring and Elk rivers, and Shoal Creek in Missouri; and the Illinois River in Oklahoma.

The rabbitsfoot is found in 51 rivers and creeks in 13 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

It has been lost from 64 percent of its original range. Of the remaining populations, 23 populations are at risk of being lost, while 17 are producing few young and show little evidence of being able to survive in the future.

Once a species is added to the endangered species list, protective measures apply to taking, transporting or selling that species. The designation also grants the Fish and Wildlife Service the authority to develop and carry out recovery plans, and to purchase important habitat. The agency also can give federal aid to state wildlife agencies that cooperate as partners, and it conducts studies when projects — such as construction — are planned in an area to determine how or whether the species would be affected.

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