- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Federal officials have proposed designating the Texas hornshell as endangered to protect the freshwater mussel that’s also found in New Mexico.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday announced the recommendation and sought public input about what it calls a “dramatic decline” in the mussel. The deadline to comment is Oct. 11.

The Austin American-Statesman (https://atxne.ws/2biWQDA ) reports that the proposal involves environmental protections and possible limits on land and water use.

The Texas hornshell mussel is one of about a dozen mussel species the Fish and Wildlife Service has been considering for an endangered listing. Experts say if the mussel wins the listing others are likely to follow.

“This move provides insight into their thinking” on the remaining species, said Charles Randklev, a mussel expert at the Texas A&M; University’s Institute for Renewable Natural Resources.

The hornshell, which can grow to about 4 inches in length and live up to 20 years, “warrants some level of protection based on the data I’ve seen,” he said, “and some of the species are not faring as well as the hornshell.”

An agency statement says the Texas hornshell is the only native mussel remaining in New Mexico and is scarce in Texas, occupying only 15 percent of its historical U.S. range.

The Fish and Wildlife Service claim dams and reduced water quality are negatively affecting the Texas hornshell and other freshwater mussels across the Southwest.

Protections for the mussels could have far-reaching implications for how the state’s river authorities distribute water to industry, farmers and cities while still leaving enough in Texas rivers to keep the mussels healthy.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest regional director Benjamin Tuggle said he wants to work with private landowners “to benefit both the species and communities that rely upon those flowing waters,” but state officials have long expressed concern about economic impact of listing the mussel.

“We’re still examining the proposal, and we also need to look at the species status assessment report,” comptroller spokesman Chris Bryan said.

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Online:

https://www.fws.gov/

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, https://www.statesman.com


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