The government said it will protect a rare freshwater mussel and the 36 miles of streams where it lives in eastern Alabama after a more than decadelong campaign by environmentalists to protect the animal from the threat of extinction.
A notice from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the Canoe Creek clubshell, which lives in only two tributaries of the Coosa River in northeast Alabama, is now considered an endangered species. The decision means stricter oversight of Big Canoe Creek and Little Canoe Creek West, where the mussel lives.
Nearly three dozen species of freshwater mussels already have become extinct in North America, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which said it joined with other groups in first asking for federal protection 12 years ago for the Canoe Creek clubshell.
"With a recovery plan and captive restoration program, we can make sure this special mussel doesn’t join the dozens of species the Coosa River has already lost forever," Tierra Curry, a senior scientist with center, said in a statement Tuesday.
First described in 2006, the Canoe Creek clubshell is about 3.5 inches long. Only 25 mussels were found in recent studies, and environmental groups said it is threatened by runoff from forestry and timber, droughts and pollution from development in nearby towns.