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For the magnificent ramshorn (Planorbella magnifica), a species of freshwater snail native to southeastern North Carolina, efforts to secure protection under the federal Endangered Species Act have progressed at a snail’s pace. Today, twelve years after conservationists originally petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to list the species, the Service offers to list the magnificent ramshorn as an endangered species and to designate two ponds spanning 739 acres as critical habitat for the species. The proposed rule was prompted by a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity that pressed the Service to make a discovery about the snail (and other species) earlier this year.
The magnificent ramshorn is an extremely salt-intolerant air-breathing herbivorous snail. Its shell is relatively large and thin, indicating that the species is adapted to life in calm or slow-flowing waters. Historically, the magnificent ramshorn has inhabited beaver ponds and mill ponds. The Service has determined that the loss of this habitat, combined with other factors such as sea level rise, pollution and extreme weather events, is causing the species to disappear from the wild. Two distinct captive populations of magnificent ramshorn exist today, comprising approximately 1,000 individual snails. Despite these figures, experts fear that a catastrophic event could lead to the near extinction of the species.
In its proposed rule, the Service lists three potential conservation strategies to help the snail: (1) maintain at least two secure captive populations until the species is stable in the wild; (2) reintroduce the species to at least two historic locations and use monitoring to ensure these populations are successful; or (3) introduce the snails to at least two other locations with suitable habitat within the species’ historic range and monitor success. After surveying over a hundred potential sites, the Service has identified two critical habitat units (Orton Pond and Big Pond) as proposed sites to develop wild snail populations.
The proposed rule will be open for comment until October 17, 2022. The Federal Register notice and supporting documents are available at regulations.govunder file number FWS-R4-ES-2022-0070.
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