2 Texas mussel species don’t need special protections, study finds

Two species of Texas mussels that were in the running to qualify as federally protected endangered species, it turns out, are doing just fine.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the smooth pimpleback and golden orb mussels could be removed from the list of species under consideration for federal protections.

The two mussels are actually genetically identical to the pimpleback mussel, which can be found in East Texas, New York, North Dakota and Mississippi.

“They’re much more wide-ranging than was previously believed,” said Adam Zerrenner, the project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services division in Austin.

The determination was made last month, but publicized Friday by the Texas comptroller’s office, which oversees the state response to proposed endangered species listings.

The discovery was the result of research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and conservation maps made by Texas A&M University’s Natural Resources Institute with funding from the comptroller’s office and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

A federal listing of any one of the species in the study could result in special habitat protections, which could eventually have far-flung implications for water users, landowners and businesses throughout the state. The mussel project is part of a larger effort spearheaded by the comptroller’s office to fund scientific research to help persuade federal authorities not to list species as endangered.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision not to list the species exemplifies the importance of a state-coordinated approach to species research and proactive conservation,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar wrote in a statement. “Going forward, it’s important to continue this collaboration so that future decisions, which could have tremendous and far-reaching impacts on the Texas economy, can be based on accurate science.”

The comptroller’s office expects a decision from the Fish and Wildlife Service on the remaining mussel species by the end of the year.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that research was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey with maps done by Texas A&M University’s Natural Resources Institute.

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