Flexing Their Mussels
Roughly 1,000 miles of rivers and streams in Alabama could be protected as critical habitat for endangered species, under a new proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The proposal, which is designed to protect eight endangered and three threatened species of mussels, was great news for environmentalists and bad news for backers of dams, water diversions, dredging, and other projects that threaten water quality. Alabama is one of the most biologically diverse states in the country, thanks to its abundant aquatic life — but it also leads the continental U.S. in extinctions. Mussels are particularly susceptible to mass die-offs or extinctions from pollution or sedimentation because they cannot move around in search of more habitable waters. Industry leaders have not yet decided whether they will try to fight the critical habitat plan.