Endangered Species Act

Jan 2, 2014

Credit Virginia Tech

The federal law protecting endangered species turned forty in 2013.  And that calls for taking stock of how it’s been working.  

Fresh Water mussels are at the foundation of aquatic life in inland waterways.  At different times in their life cycle, the burrow into river bottoms, keeping soil substrates aerated, and they act as powerful filtering systems that help keep the water clean. But they’re on the endangered species list, and anything that threatens them, also threatens our fresh surface water.

“If all of these threatened species are taken care of, we’re taking care of ourselves too. It’s basically at the end of the day it’s life support for humans too," says Eric Hallerman, professor of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech.

Hallerman is part of a team, which grows mussels in a hatchery in Blacksburg.  The stock came from the wide variety of mussel species native to this region –the largest diversity of the mussel species in the world.  Offspring grown indoors from this stock are tagged so they can be studied and put into area waterways each year at the end of summer to spawn.

“We’ve shown that some of mussels that we’ve out planted have survived.  Now we’re looking for evidence that they’ve reproduced at that the young they produced have survived.  We’re looking to put ourselves out of biz over a period of time," he said.

And that too, is the mission of the 40-year-old federal Endangered Species Act.  Come early middle age, it’s time to reflect on your accomplishments and celebrate them.