Ten Virginia species closer to gaining federal protections after lawsuit agreement

Freshwater mussels from the Clinch River.
Freshwater mussels from the Clinch River.(Sarah Vogelsong)
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 4:24 PM EDT
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Virginia’s aptly named overlooked cave beetle is one of 10 species found in the state scheduled to be considered for protections under the Endangered Species Act.

In response to a federal lawsuit filed by the national environmental nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed July 24 to expedite its decisions on 33 species.

Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the center, said in a press release, “It’s inexcusable how long it’s taken for these rare species to move toward protection. We could lose two out of every five wild species if we don’t act now, so we need urgency from the Fish and Wildlife Service, not delays.”

Under the agreement, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the USFWS has to reach a decision as to whether the 33 species should be protected or not under the Endangered Species Act by certain dates.

Five species found in Virginia and throughout the Southeastern region of the U.S. – the Cumberland moccasinshell, Tennessee clubshell, Tennessee heelsplitter and Tennessee pigtoe freshwater mussels along with crustacean Morrison’s Cave amphipod – require a decision by Aug 15.

Four species found exclusively in Virginia – the Hubbard’s cave beetle, Little Kennedy cave beetle, Shenandoah cave beetle and overlooked cave beetle – require a decision by Dec. 15.

The spiny scale crayfish, also found in Virginia and throughout the Southeast, requires a decision by Sep. 1, 2025.

According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources’ Species of Greatest Conservation Need list released this year, all but the Cumberland moccasinshell and Tennessee clubshell have a “very high” conservation need.


NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news...
NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news organization covering state government and policy.(Virginia Mercury)