I mentioned recently a growing effort to build opposition to federal Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to designate about 40 percent of the state as critical habitat for two species of mussels — the Neosho mucket, listed as endangered, and rabbitsfoot, listed as threatened.
Sen. Mark Pryor weighed in on this issue last May and got an extension of the public comment period to Oct. 28. The Association of Arkansas Counties has taken the lead in building public opposition to the proposal. The fear is that such activities as road building and fill permits can become more expensive when reviews are necessary for potential presence of the endangered species. The argument is that the area designated as critical habitat is overly large.
Now the Association has announced unanimous objections from the Arkansas congressional delegation — both senators and all four House members.
A release on their opposition, with statements, is here. Note that Sen. Missy Irvin, who crusaded against the largely meaningless Blueway designation for the White River, sniffs another opportunity on this issue and plans state legislative hearings. The Association of Arkansas Counties and other groups mostly business lobbies, has proposed a reduction in the habitat designation by 36 percent after studies by analysts it hired.
This is just the beginning of what could be many similar fights. Some 44 other Arkansas species are considered threatened or endangered and future habitat designations might also present more battlegrounds.
These fights have been waged all over the country, with species preservation being pitted against job creation and the economy.
If you really want to dig into this, here’s the portal to the Fish and Wildife Service’s mapping of existing critical habitats. In Arkansas, There’s a protection area in western Arkansas for the leopard darter, for example.
Go here for information on the Neosho mucket.