Local & Regional News
3:10 pm
Sat November 9, 2013

Arkansas Congressmen and Critical Habitat Designation

Neosho Mucket Mussel
Neosho Mucket
Credit gpnc.org

A recent proposal by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to protect two species of mussels in Arkansas is being met with opposition. KUAR's Jacob Kauffman has details.

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The proposal would designated 42 percent of Arkansas's land as critical habitat for the endangered Neosho Mucket and the threatened rabbitsfoot mussels. The designation would subject some landowners to prove development would not adversely effect the species.

An excerpt from Fish and Wildife's website outlines how developers might be impacted.

Although non-federal lands have initially been included in these areas, activities on these lands are not affected now, and will not necessarily be affected if the species is protected under the ESA in the future. Only if an activity is authorized, funded, or carried out by a federal agency will the agency need to work with the Service to help landowners avoid, reduce or mitigate potential impacts to listed species or to ensure actions do not adversely modify critical habitat.  In addition, public and private landowners still must comply with other provisions of the ESA to protect threatened and endangered species on their lands. The Service relies on a number of voluntary, non-regulatory conservation programs to provide willing landowners with assurances to protect them for the work they do on their lands.

On Friday the Association of Arkansas Counties issued a statement, with every member of the state's congressional delegation, arguing the Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal was too broad and could hinder economic development. The statement also noted concern the designation may open the door for future land regulation for over 40 other species with precarious futures.

The Association of Counties' comments proposed that just 36 percent of the land from the federal agency's recommendation be designated as critical habitat. The Fish and Wildlife Agency is evaluating public comments submitted since May.