On November 2, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listed (PDF) the Georgia pigtoe mussel, the interrupted rocksnail and the rough hornsnail as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and designated 160 miles of stream and river channels as critical habitat for the three species in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. The listing followed FWS’s determination that the species have experienced a significant curtailment in their freshwater habitats. FWS attributes the habitat loss to fragmentation and isolation of free-flowing rivers and tributaries, as well as increased vulnerability to water quality and habitat degradation.
FWS also proposed protection (PDF) for the rayed bean and snuffbox mussels, seeking comments from the scientific community and the public prior to finalizing the listing rule. Mississippi’s Bay Springs salamander, however, was denied protection (PDF) based on FWS’s determination that it is extinct. These species, as well as the pigtoe mussel, interrupted rocksnail and the rough hornsnail, are threatened by degradation of freshwater habitat due to dams, urban sprawl, and industrial and agricultural pollution.
Litigation surrounding the species may have prompted FWS’s actions; last February, the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit against FWS for failure to protect over 90 species, including the Bay Springs salamander. Critics assert that, despite its belief that the salamander is extinct, FWS should have listed the species to stimulate further surveys of the population since it is possible that some individuals remain.