Center for Biological Diversity

Contact:  Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495,
Dr. Myra Crawford, Cahaba Riverkeeper, (205) 410-7163,

For Immediate Release, December 19, 2017

Alabama River Snail Moves Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

Once Thought Extinct, Oblong Rocksnails Threatened by Habitat Degradation, Pollution, Climate Change

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.— In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and Cahaba Riverkeeper, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the oblong rocksnail may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The nickel-sized snail is found only in the Cahaba River. It was thought to be extinct for 70 years until it was rediscovered in 2011, but is now at risk of extinction due to pollution.

“It’s great news that the oblong rocksnail is moving toward the Endangered Species Act protection that will make sure it’s around for generations to come,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. “The Endangered Species Act has been 99 percent effective at preventing the extinction of the plants and animals under its care, so this special snail now has a hopeful future.”

Oblong rocksnails, with three stripes on their shells and black-and-yellow-striped soft bodies, were driven to near extinction by 1935. The culprit was likely pollution and effluent from expanding agriculture and urban development in the Cahaba River Basin. The snails were officially declared extinct in 2000. The species was rediscovered in 2011, but threats to its survival — including urban sprawl, pollution, sedimentation, small population size, limited range and climate change — threaten its long-term viability.

“Rocksnails are critical to the health of the Cahaba River ecosystem, one of the most biologically rich freshwater systems in the world,” said Myra Crawford, executive director of Cahaba Riverkeeper. “We must do everything we can to protect the diversity of this area, because it’s an underappreciated national treasure.”

The rivers of the southeastern United States are a global hotspot of both biodiversity and extinction. The region boasts more kinds of freshwater snails, mussels, fishes and crawdads than anywhere else in the world. But dams, human population growth, pollution and invasive species have already caused the extinction of more than 50 species. More than 200 imperiled freshwater species from the Southeast are under review for Endangered Species Act protection.

Today’s 90-day finding on the petition launches a 30-day public-comment period and a one-year scientific status review. The Fish and Wildlife Service will then either propose protection for the snail, deny protection or add it to the candidate waiting list. Several other species also received positive 90-day findings today, including tricolored bats, severely threatened by the bat epidemic known as white-nose syndrome; sicklefin and sturgeon chubs; Venus flytraps; and leopards. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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