FROM SUBMITTED REPORTS
This just in from Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar:
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is considering whether to place several species of freshwater mussels found in Texas on the federal endangered species list. To ensure the best science is available for these decisions, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar today announced funding for a $2.3 million research proposal by Texas State University to study five Central Texas species of freshwater mussels.
The scope of the study, expected to be the most comprehensive of its kind in the Southwest region, will address key questions about freshwater mussels in Texas and fill important data gaps in determining their need for protection.
“This partnership will address voluntary conservation measures that, if needed, will protect the mussels while minimizing potential impacts to our state’s economy,” Hegar said. “Our office believes a science-driven, open and transparent stakeholder process will lead to a collaborative solution for issues concerning the Central Texas mussel.”
The Comptroller’s office will coordinate research and the stakeholder process with FWS.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service applauds the Texas Comptroller’s office for taking a proactive, partnership approach to mussel research and voluntary conservation,” said Benjamin N. Tuggle, southwest regional director for FWS. “As we move forward, we must have contemporary science available to us in order to develop collaborative approaches for the conservation of these aquatic species.”
The research will evaluate the amount and distribution of mussels in the Brazos, Colorado and Guadalupe river basins. It will also consider the conditions needed to maintain the mussels’ habitat, and the range of environmental stresses mussels can tolerate, as well as the species’ responses to those stresses. FWS expects to make its decisions by September 2018.
In conjunction with scientists at FWS’ San Marcos Aquatic Research Center and the Inks Dam and Uvalde National Fish Hatcheries, the study also will evaluate methods for the deliberate breeding of mussels in hatcheries to increase their numbers, and the reintroduction of those mussels to their native habitats.
“This research program is the most expansive of its kind in Texas, and we at Texas State University are looking forward to working with Comptroller Hegar and our team of experts to gain greater understanding of freshwater mussels,” Texas State University Professor Tim Bonner said.
The 2013 Texas Legislature appropriated $5 million to the Comptroller’s office to contract with state universities for high-quality research on species under review for endangered species listing. The 2015 legislative session appropriated an additional $5 million for this purpose, from which the freshwater mussels research will be funded.
To protect the Texas economy and cooperate with federal Endangered Species Act regulations, the 2009 Legislature appointed the Comptroller to serve as presiding officer of the Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species. The task force assists landowners, industries and local communities in working with endangered species issues and assessing their economic impact on the state.