For Immediate Release, August 25, 2021

Contact:

Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017, michaelr@biologicaldiversity.org

Six Texas Freshwater Mussels Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection

Nearly 2,000 Miles of Rivers, Creeks Designated as Protected Critical Habitat

AUSTIN, Texas— Following litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to protect six species of Texas freshwater mussels under the Endangered Species Act. The Service also proposed designating 1,944 river miles as critical habitat for the mussels.

The Texas pimpleback, Guadalupe orb, Texas fatmucket, Guadalupe fatmucket and false spike will be listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, while the Texas fawnsfoot will be classified as threatened. All six species inhabit the Brazos, Colorado, Trinity and Guadalupe river basins.

“Central Texas is blessed with abundant life-giving streams and rivers, but unbridled development has put these freshwater bottom-feeders at high risk of extinction,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Protecting unique mussel species will help preserve clean, flowing water for other creatures and people as well.”

The Texas mussels face an array of threats, including degraded water quality, increased sedimentation of their habitat, and changes to the flows of rivers and streams due to diversions and development.

WildEarth Guardians filed petitions to list the species in 2007 and 2008, illustrating that mussel populations were being dramatically harmed by water diversions.

The Service in 2009 agreed that listing the Texas fatmucket, Texas pimpleback, Texas fawnsfoot and false spike may be warranted but took no action. In 2011, the Service announced that for the Texas fatmucket, Texas fawnsfoot and Texas pimpleback, listing was “warranted but precluded by higher priority actions.”

In April the Center sued the Service for its failure to protect 10 species, including the Texas fatmucket, Texas pimpleback and Texas fawnsfoot.

In June the Service proposed to protect 463 miles of the Rio Grande and its tributaries in Texas and New Mexico as critical habitat for another freshwater mussel, the endangered Texas hornshell. Like the species in today’s announcement, the hornshell has been dramatically impacted by pollution, water impoundments and depletion.

Background

Once common in Texas, the false spike was considered extinct until a single specimen was discovered in 2011 near Gonzales in the Guadalupe River. The species is now found in four populations: the Little River and some tributaries; the lower San Saba and Llano Rivers; and in the lower Guadalupe River. The Service proposed designating 328.2 river miles as protected habitat for the false spike along the Little, San Saba, Llano and Guadalupe rivers.

The Guadalupe fatmucket was recently discovered to be a separate and distinct species from the Texas fatmucket. The mussel is currently found in just one population along 54 miles of the Guadalupe River basin in Kerr and Kendall Counties. The Service will designate as protected critical habitat 54.1 river miles along the Guadalupe River, North Fork Guadalupe River and Johnson Creek.

The Guadalupe orb, found in just two populations in the Guadalupe River basin, was also recently discovered to be its own species, separate from the Texas pimpleback, which now occurs only in the Colorado River basin. The Service proposed designating 294.5 river miles of critical habitat for the orb along the Lower and Upper Guadalupe rivers.

For the Texas pimpleback, the Service proposed 494.7 river miles of protected habitat along the Concho, Upper and Lower Colorado, Upper and Lower San Saba and Llano rivers, as well as Elm Creek.

Texas fatmucket also live only in the upper reaches of major tributaries within the Colorado River basin. The Service proposed designating 436 river miles as critical habitat for the Texas fatmucket along the San Saba, Llano and Pedernales rivers, and Cherokee, Elm and Onion creeks.

Texas fawnsfoot mussels are found in the lower reaches of the Colorado and Brazos Rivers, and in the Trinity River. The Service will designate 917.2 river miles of critical habitat for the fawnsfoot along the Clear Fork Brazos, Upper Brazos, Lower Brazos, Little, Lower San Saba, Upper and Lower Colorado, East Fork Trinity and Trinity rivers.

Under the Endangered Species Act, other federal agencies will have to consult with the Service over any actions, including permitting and funding, that would destroy or harm areas of critical habitat once the designation is finalized, which must occur within a year. A 60-day public comment period on today’s proposed rule will begin soon.

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Texas pimpleback. Photo courtesy of USFWS. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.