Federal officials say two species of freshwater mussels that live in southwest Missouri and are considered indicators of water quality will soon be placed under federal protection.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that the Neosho mucket mussel will be listed as endangered and the rabbitsfoot mussel as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The protection takes effect 30 days after the new rules are published in the Federal Register. The listing makes it illegal to kill, harm, harvest or possess the mussels.
The public rarely sees either type of mussel but they are important to determine water quality, said Georgia Parham, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The mussels are threatened by habitat destruction caused by channelization, chemicals, mining and sedimentation, the agency said.
“Nobody ever sees them, nobody knows they are there. … But they are kind of the canary in the coal mine as far as waterways, streams and rivers are concerned,” she said.