Hatchett Creek mussel, snails now endangeredPublished 7:12pm Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife provided Endangered Species status this week to a mussel and several snails found in Hatchet Creek in Coosa County.
The Georgia Pigtoe mussel, interrupted rocksnail and rough hornsnail were included in the announcement. The mollusks can also be found throughout the Coosa River drainage of the Mobile River Basin, which flows through parts of Alabama Georgia and Tennessee.
Connie Dickard, a public affairs representative for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), said the species have lost about 90 percent of their habitat.
“With only 10 percent remaining, we know that it’s a species in trouble,” she said. “Now that they are protected, we can do some other things for them.”
The FWS also declared about 160 miles of land, including Hatchet Creek, “critical habitat.” The critical habitat designation identifies areas that are essential for the survival of the endangered species and provides protection and land management considerations.
The designation would require potential developers to work closely with FWS before beginning construction in the area.
However, Paul Hartfield, an FWS endangered species biologist, said the new designation won’t make a big difference, because most of the area was already protected.
“It’s within the same area that was already critical habitat,” he said.
Hartfield said the critical habitat in Hatchet Creek ranges from just above the Coosa/Clay County line to the bridge on Coosa County Road 29.
Dickard said the endangered designation helps protect the species by raising the recognition level. The FWS will also conduct surveys of the species’ populations.
“That type of action will lead toward trying to recover the species in order to get their population back up,” she said.
Mussels are essential indicators of water quality, according to a FWS press release. Gradual die-offs or sudden mussel kills signal pollution problems in the aquatic environment on which mussels and humans both depend. The mussels’ ability to filter makes them natural water purifiers of their river and lake environments. Mussels also serve as a food source for wildlife, including muskrats and otters.