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For Immediate Release, October 4, 2011

Contact: Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 522-3681

26 Pacific Northwest Mollusks Move Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

 Washington, Oregon and California Species May Get Protection

PORTLAND, Ore.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined today that 26 species of Pacific Northwest snails and slugs may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. This 90-day finding by the Fish and Wildlife Service initiates a 12-month review of the species’ status to determine whether they will be federally protected. The species are found primarily in old-growth forest habitat in Washington, Oregon and Northern California; their possible protection is the result of a landmark legal settlement reached earlier this year between the Center for Biological Diversity and the Service to expedite protection decisions for 757 imperiled species across the country.

“We’re really pleased that these underappreciated species have advanced toward the Endangered Species Act protection they need to survive,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Mollusks may be small and often slimy, but they’re a vital food source for other animals, key to nutrient cycling, and important indicators of forest and watershed health. Saving them will help keep the Pacific Northwest’s nature intact for future generations.”

The Center and four other conservation groups sought protection for the species in March 2008 in a petition to protect 32 species of Pacific Northwest mollusks threatened by the loss of old-growth forest habitat. The mollusks are found from British Columbia to Northern California, mostly on public land including the Columbia River Gorge and the Gifford Pinchot, Mt. Hood, Trinity, Lassen and Wenatchee national forests. They are threatened by logging, decreasing water quality, pollution and climate change.

Aquatic snails and terrestrial snails and slugs are a critical link in the food web because they consume microorganisms and forest-floor litter and are then eaten by birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, mammals and their fellow invertebrates. They contribute to water quality and soil- and water-nutrient cycling and act as dispersers for mushrooms and other fungi. Empty snail shells are used as housing and egg-laying sites by insects; the reproductive cycles of many insects are dependent on snails that serve as parasitic hosts. Because they are extremely sensitive to pollution, mollusks are also indicators of overall environmental health.

Co-petitioners for the species included Conservation Northwest, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Oregon Wild.

Species Highlights:

Basalt juga
This river snail has three yellow bands on its white shell and is only found in cold springs in the Columbia River Gorge in Hood River and Wasco counties, Ore.; Klickitat and Skamania counties, Wash.; and Mt. Hood and Gifford Pinchot national forests. It is threatened by logging, grazing and water diversions.

Nerite pebblesnail
This springsnail has a white shell and lives in large, clean springs in the Klamath River drainage in Jackson County, Ore. It is found on Bureau of Land Management lands and is threatened by logging, grazing and water diversions.

Masked duskysnail
This springsnail is five millimeters long and has a clear shell. It is found only in Chelan and Ferry counties in Washington, and occurs in the Wenatchee National Forest. It is threatened primarily by water pollution from pesticides and fertilizers.

Canary duskysnail
This tiny springsnail has a yellow shell with dark brown coating. It is found in the Pit River drainage in Lassen, Modoc and Shasta counties, Calif., and is threatened by logging, mining, grazing and water diversions.

Cinnamon juga
This river snail has a near-black, cinnamon-red shell and is known from only four to eight sites in the Shasta Springs complex in the upper Sacramento River drainage in Siskiyou County, Calif. This snail is threatened by pesticide spraying, water diversions, water pollution, grazing, development and recreation.

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