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Serving: IN

Do Endangered Mussels Live Near You?

Do Endangered Mussels Live Near You?
Government places two species of mussels on endangered species list.

Recently a youth group presented a play at a soil and water annual meeting in Johnson County. The Johnson County Soil and Water Youth Conservation Board, believes to be the only such board for high school students still operating in the U.S., prevents  a skit each year near the end of the Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District's annual meeting. It has become one of the most-looked-for parts of the event.

By treating serious topics in humorous ways, the kids hope to get the audience to at least think about a topic of interest to soil conservation. One year ago the skit revolved around the Dust Bowl. Lo and behold, a modern dust bowl developed in Texas later last year.

This year, the group did their skit on whether or not farmers should be allowed to clear ditch banks to allow tile to work and water to flow. Pitted against each other were a farmer and his do-good environmentalist neighbor, who called authorities. One of the characters in the play, who engaged in conversations with a talking squirrel and a talking beaver, all in relation to what would happen if the creek was cleared, was a mussel.

Life imitates fiction again. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just listed two freshwater mussels as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The mussels are the rayed bean and snuffbox mussels. They are found in river systems in the eastern U.S.

The rayed bean mussel is commonly found in Indiana. The snuffbox mussel can also be found in Indiana rivers. Dramatic declines in populations of these two mussels led to the decision to place them on the list, officials note. The rayed bean is no longer in 73% of the streams where it was originally found, and the snuffbox has disappeared from 62% of the streams it originally inhabited.

It's not yet clear what this real-life action might mean to Indiana farmers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for now, says it will "work cooperatively with partners to develop recovery plans for the two mussels and coordinate efforts to conserve their habitats."

Impoundments, channelization, chemical contamination, mining and sedimentation are listed as possible causes of the decline in these species. Officials view their decline as a sign that the water quality in the streams that they inhabited has declined.

Learn more at: www.midwest.gov/endangered. You can be sure this won't be the last time you hear about endangered mussels.  
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