Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2023

Contact:

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

Two Texas Mussels Move Closer to Endangered Species Protections

385 Miles of Rio Grande Proposed as Protected Critical Habitat

LAREDO, Texas— Responding to a 2020 lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to protect two species of Texas freshwater mussels under the Endangered Species Act and designate critical habitat for them.

The protected habitat includes 200 miles of the Rio Grande for Salina mucket mussels, from Big Bend National Park downstream to near the Amistad reservoir, and 185 miles for Mexican fawnsfoot mussels, from near Eagle Pass to the Falcon reservoir.

Both mussel species have been lost from large portions of their former habitats, with the Mexican fawnsfoot occupying 48% of its historic range and the Salina mucket occupying just 16% of its historic range.

“Dams, pollution and habitat destruction have brought these Texas mussels to the brink of extinction and the climate emergency only makes the situation worse,” said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center. “Endangered Species Act protection gives these mussels a shot at survival and recovery while at the same time improving the health of the Rio Grande.”

The mussels need clean flowing water and cannot live in reservoirs. They reproduce by extruding fish lures and then explosively broadcasting their larvae onto any fish that come near. The baby mussels live on the fish’s gills for about a month while they grow until dropping off onto the river bottom. After striking out on their own, the mussels filter the water that fish and humans need to survive.

The two mussel species will join another Rio Grande freshwater mussel species, the Texas hornshell, which was protected as endangered in 2018, also as a consequence of a Center lawsuit.

The Salina mucket has been waiting for a decision on whether it should be protected for 15 years and the Mexican fawnsfoot has been waiting for 16 years, since they were first petitioned for protections by WildEarth Guardians.

“It shouldn’t take the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this long to protect such clearly imperiled species,” said Robinson. “Rare animals such as the Salina mucket and Mexican fawnsfoot deserve better. This agency is badly in need of new leadership and reform, and it’s past time for the Biden administration to make that happen.”

The Service will now begin a 60-day comment period on the proposals after the rule is published and will have one year to make final listing decisions.

RSSalina_mucket_Clint_Robertson_TPWD_FPWC
Salina mucket by Clint Robertson, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Image is 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.

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