Associated Press reports:
Proposal Offers Protection For Mussels
By Elliott Minor
June 7, 2006 — In response to a lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating 1,200 miles of rivers and streams in Alabama, Florida and Georgia as critical habitat for seven federally protected mussel species.
The waterways include portions of Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system in all three states, the Ochlocknee River in Georgia and Florida and the Econfina Creek and Suwannee River in Florida.
Some scientists rank mussels as the nation’s most threatened natural resource.
Of the 300 species found in the United States, most live in the Southeast.
American Indians ate them and used them to make tools and jewelry, and their shells were a major source of buttons from about 1890 until plastic buttons came along in the 1950s.
Snuggled in their hinged shells, they’re not much to look at.
To the uninitiated, they may resemble a blob, but scientists know all their parts: a mouth, a couple of muscles, a single sturdy foot for digging and anchoring and gills for straining food from the water.
“They’re somewhat charismatically challenged lacking a face, but they receive the same protections as some species with faces under the Endangered Species Act,” said Jerry Zeiwitz, a Wildlife Service biologist in Panama City, Fla.
What mussels may lack in inner beauty, they make up for in their colorful names.
Five Mussel Species Would Be Covered
The critical habitat designation is proposed for five endangered mussels — the fat threeridge, the shinyrayed pocketbook, the Gulf moccasinshell, the Ochlocknee moccasinshell and the oval pigtoe — and two threatened mussels, the Chipola slabshell and purple bankclimber.
Florida: Dry Tortugas National Park.