The brook floater, a freshwater mussel native to the eastern U.S. and maritime Canada, is picky about its habitat and requires a constant source of fresh flowing water, which supplies oxygen and food. The best available science shows that the species is thriving thanks to state and federal efforts to improve water quality throughout its range. Therefore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the species does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

Since 2016, the Service has supported a multi-state initiative to conserve the species. Led by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the group is working on developing strategies for advancing brook floater conservation through activities including standardizing surveys, developing models to understand distribution and habitat needs, monitoring at the state and regional scales, and improving techniques and capacity for captive propagation. With the knowledge and resources to consistently produce healthy mussels in captivity, partners will be able to reintroduce brook floaters and further boost local populations. Learn more about this effort in our blog post, Partners working to conserve freshwater mussel find strength in numbers.

Brook floaters can be found in streams across 14 U.S. states. No bigger than a credit card, brook floaters have elliptical-shaped shells that range in color from yellowish green to dark brown, often with green rays fanning out perpendicular to their growth rings. When removed from the water, they have a peculiar habit of gaping their shell open to expose their orange “foot,” giving the appearance that they are sticking out their tongue.

Over time, changes in temperature and precipitation patterns may degrade the clean, flowing streams brook floaters depend upon, as will development and competition from invasive species. The Service concluded that despite these projected threats, the brook floater is expected to maintain enough healthy populations across its range to withstand future challenges. This means it does not meet the definition of an endangered species (in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range) or a threatened species (at risk of becoming so in the foreseeable future). 

The brook floater was petitioned for federal protection under the ESA in 2010 by the Center for Biological Diversity and several other entities. The Service reviewed the petition and decided to conduct a more in-depth review of the mussel and documented that review in a species status assessment report. The report was reviewed by peer and partner experts from academia and state and federal agencies, and then used by the Service to make a decision based on ESA policy.

You can learn more about this species, and the Service’s finding, at: More information regarding the species and the Service’s listing determination is available here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/08/15/2019-17536/endangered-and-threatened-species-12-month-findings-on-petitions-to-list-eight-species-as-endangered. On August 15, supporting documents will be available at www.regulations.gov under docket FWS–R5–ES–2019–0032. 

Here are some ways you can help water quality:

Don’t dump chemicals into streams, and report chemical spills to state environmental protection agencies.

During timber harvest, construction, or other projects, implement best management practices for sediment and erosion control.

Start a watershed group or assist in stream and water quality monitoring efforts.

Plant trees and other native woody vegetation along stream banks to help restore and preserve water quality.

Replace or remove culverts and low-water bridge crossings that are barriers to passage for fish and other aquatic species.

The effort to conserve America’s at-risk wildlife and recover listed species is led by the Service and state wildlife agencies in partnership with other government agencies, private landowners, conservation groups, tribes, businesses, utilities and others. The Service has drawn support for its use of incentives and flexibilities within the ESA to protect rare wildlife, reduce regulations and keep working lands working.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.