FWS Proposes Federal Protection for Mussels After Environmental Group’s Lawsuit

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), six Central Texas mussel species are moving toward Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) protection. The federal register filing explains that after review of the latest and most accurate scientific and commercial information, the FWS found listing the species as threatened or endangered warranted.

The notice also explains that the FWS proposes to designate critical habitat for all six species. In total, approximately 1,944 river miles in Texas fall within the boundaries of the proposed designations. The notice also solicits public comment until October 25.

According to a press release issued by the Center for Biological Diversity, the species inhabit the Brazos, Colorado, Trinity and Guadalupe river basins. Their existence has reportedly been threatened by “degraded water quality, increased sedimentation of their habitat, and changes to the flows of rivers and streams due to diversions and development.”

The FWS decree comes after the Center filed suit against the agency, the Department of the Interior, and their leaders in April. The District of Columbia complaint accuses the defendants of failing to timely act to protect ten species, including three of the mussel species now moving towards protection.

The complaint charges the federal government with unjustifiably dragging its feet concerning the species listing process. “During the Trump administration … the Service listed the fewest number of species as ‘endangered’ or ‘threatened,’ on average, of any administration,” the filing notes. The Center requested that the court compel agency action, which the FWS has agreed to do, at least in part with this week’s announcement.

In the last year, the Center has actively litigated other similar cases against the FWS for, among other things, delaying ESA listings, failing to protect eight species of Caribbean reptiles and a large salamander.