The Comptroller of Public Accounts has just announced that they will be hosting a Freshwater Mussel Summit on September 27th at the Capitol. What are freshwater mussels are and why do we need to have a summit on them? According to Texas Mussel Watch, freshwater mussels are one of the most imperiled groups of animals in the US. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering for listing 9 species of freshwater mussel in Texas as either threatened or endangered and designating critical habitat for these animals (Federal Register, Volume 74, page 66260). This is why the Comptroller’s office is having a summit. This proposed listing is a big deal. They propose to provide an overview of the Endangered Species Act, the status and ecology of freshwater mussels in Texas, and possible impacts that could result from listing.
Texas has over 50 species of freshwater mussels and they have fascinating names like pimpleback, heelsplitter and fatmucket. You may be wondering what benefit freshwater mussels provide to people and the environment besides having amusing names. In the rivers and lakes where they live, mussels filter and naturally purify our water and they play an important role in the aquatic food chain as a food source. Freshwater mussels can tell us about the health of the environment and our rivers as well since they are especially sensitive to and respond to changes in water quality. Gradual mussel die-offs or sudden mussel kills are reliable indicators of water pollution problems and other environmental health concerns. Stable, diverse mussel populations generally indicate clean water and a healthy aquatic environment. The biggest threat to the species is the loss and degradation of habitat. (source: Discover Freshwater Mussels)
I plan on attending the Freshwater Mussel Summit and learning more about these fascinating creatures and what needs to be done to protect their health (and threfore ours) in the future. I encourage you to attend as well.