Rabbitsfoot Mussel Joins List of Endangered Candidates

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its Candidate Notice of Review, a yearly appraisal of the current status of plants and animals that are considered candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act.  The updated list of candidate species includes the rabbitsfoot mussel, found in only 49 streams in 15 states, including Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio.

Four species have been removed from candidate status, five have been added, and eight have a change in priority from the last review in December 2008.  There are now 249 species recognized by the Service as candidates for ESA protection.

Candidate species are plants and animals for which the Service has enough information on their status and threats to propose them as threatened or endangered, but developing a proposed listing rule is precluded by higher priority listing actions.

As part of this review, the Service is soliciting additional information on these candidate species, as well as information on other species that may be eligible for addition to future candidate updates. This information will be valuable in preparing listing documents and future revisions or supplements to the notice of review.

Service Director Sam Hamilton said: "Voluntary conservation efforts enable us to leverage our resources to protect these species and the habitats upon which they depend. Candidate species do not receive protection under the ESA, although the Service works to conserve them.  The annual review and identification of candidate species provides resource managers advance notice of species in need of conservation, allowing them to address threats and work to preclude the need to list the species."

The Service has several tools for protecting candidate species and their habitat, including a grants program that funds conservation projects by private landowners, states and territories. In addition, the Service can enter into Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCA), formal agreements between the Service and one or more parties to address the conservation needs of proposed or candidate species, or species likely to become candidates, before they become listed as endangered or threatened.  CCA participants voluntarily commit to implementing specific actions that will remove or reduce the threats to these species, thereby contributing to stabilizing or restoring the species. 

Another similar tool is the Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs).  While these voluntary agreements are only between the Service and non-Federal landowners, they have the same goals as CCAs of addressing threats to candidate species.

The four species removed from candidate status are two plants from Puerto Rico - Calliandra locoensis and Calyptranthes estremerae; the troglobitic groundwater shrimp found in Puerto Rico, Barbuda, and the Dominican Republic; and the fat whorled pondsnail from Utah.  The Service removed these species after a review of the information found that they do not face threats to an extent that ESA protection is needed.

Today's notice also identifies five new candidate species:  the rabbitsfoot mussel, found in only 49 streams in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia; the Florida bonneted bat, currently found at 12 locations in central/south Florida; the Kentucky gladecress (Leavenworthia exigua var. laciniata), a plant found in Bullitt and Jefferson counties, Ky.; the Florida bristle fern (Trichomanes punctatum floridanum), found in small areas of Miami-Dade and Sumter Counties, Fla.; and the diamond darter, a small fish found only in portions of the Elk River, W.V.

The complete notice and list of proposed and candidate species that appears in the Federal Register and can be found online here.

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