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Local Endangered Species

Snuffbox Mussel

by Adam Hostetter/Sports and Entertainment Editor

As a central Illinois resident, it is very easy to ignore local environmental problems and challenges. After all, most of the environment is corn and soybean fields. However, in Coles County there are two federally listed endangered species, and they may go extinct, a.k.a. no longer exist, if something is not done to stop this. The lesser known and more likely to disappear is the snuffbox, a freshwater mollusk in the Embarras and, consequentially, Wabash river watersheds.

The snuffbox itself looks like any other mussel; it has a shell and filter feeds on the river bottom, usually burying itself. The real issue is that its population, both in numbers and range, is down 90 percent according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s official website. The snuffbox lives in swift moving currents, something that has been disappearing due to dams along many major and minor streams. Not only that, but its habitats are becoming toxic for the poor critters to live in. Pollution from herbicides and pesticides spread on farm fields, oil that was spilled on the driveway and other hazardous wastes that can get into the groundwater end up draining in the rivers where the snuffbox lives.

This is terrible. The USFWS states, “The snuffbox cannot survive without help… to restore habitat and improve surface lands. In many cases, the threats are not from actions in or adjacent to rivers, rather, threats are from widespread problems on uplands at the highest elevations of watersheds. Habitat restoration will require improvements across the entire watershed. The voluntary assistance of federal and state agencies, conservation groups, local governments, private landowners, industries, businesses, and farming communities will be necessary to meet recovery goals.”

This little mussel will not survive without us, the local communities, changing how we manage our lands. Besides, the mussel was here first.

To help the snuffbox’s recovery efforts, learn how to properly dispose of hazardous wastes found at home such as paint, batteries, and the pollutants listed earlier. Help habitat restoration efforts in your local area, and tell others that central Illinois has its own fair share of environmental issues. You can learn more about the snuffbox at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/clams/snuffbox/index.html


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