Wednesday, July 11, 2007

James Bruggers - Watchdog Earth

I saw lots of mussle shells and even one or two live mussles when I was kayaking on the Green River at Mammoth Cave. I had no clue they were endangered--I'm glad I didn't take the live one I found home with me!

James Bruggers - Watchdog Earth

The federal Endangered Species Act generally has a lot of muscle. In certain circumstances, it can bring development to its knees -- at least long enough to try to figure out how to protect rare animals and plants.

Now that muscle is helping rare Kentucky mussels.

Dave Baker with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife supplied Watchdog Earth with these two photos of an effort to boost the mussel population in the Green River. Both photos feature mussel researcher Monte McGregor. The top photo shows McGregor yesterday preparing to release juvenile pink mucket mussels from a jug of water into a riffle located near Munfordville in Hart County. Let go were approximately 1,100 of the federally endangered mussels, each the size of a grain of sand.

At left, McGregor holds a number of endangered fanshell mussels, preparing to place them in Green River.

If nothing else, these photos illustrate how the Endangered Species Act protects what can seem like the lesser creatures of the Earth, and not just those more charismatic animals like bald eagles and grizzly bears. Mussels may not seem that important, other than the ones many of us like to cook in a white wine sauce and dip in butter. But these freshwater varities have, historically, been very important for filtering and cleaning water in Midwestern and Southeastern rivers. They are also important sources of food for other animals.

Look here for more information, and next time you are at the gym working on your own muscles, think of nature's mussels, too.

-by James Bruggers

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