Conserving imperiled aquatic species in the Upper Tennessee River Basin

In the southern Appalachians, the waters of
the Upper Tennessee River Basin are alive with a whopping two hundred and
fifty-five species of fish and mussels. This is a thriving yet fragile ecosystem,
and a special sanctuary for the people and communities who call it home.
The river systems here in the Upper Tennessee Basin support amazing
array of fresh water mussels, fish and other aquatic fauna the rivals anything
you see anywhere in the world. For example we still have, in the Clinch
River alone, some 44-46 species of freshwater mussels which is more than
than in the entire rest of the state of Virginia. We have a hundred and eighteen
native fish species that occupy the Clinch River–that’s over half of what’s
in the state of Virginia. [It’s] just an incredible amount of diversity
that we ought to take pride in. We ought to understand that the well-being of
those plants and animals is a reflection of the well-being of the river in what
our interaction with that river is likely going to be on into the future.
-We’re not separate from this ecosystem, we are a part of it, people are a part of
it, so what we do and how we treat this ecosystem, including the aquatic portions of it, will be what we have to live with. Despite this incredible
diversity of stream life, contaminants affecting water quality low population
size and habitat fragmentation have combined to threaten many species in the
basin. To help sustain this valuable natural resource for future generations the Fish and Wildlife Service with
assistance from the USGS geological survey has developed a collaborative
conservation strategy that examines cost-effective approaches to conserve
and manage the thirty-six imperiled freshwater fish and mussel species in
the basin. -This strategy is a tool that the Fish and Wildlife Service developed
to guide its management actions within the basin. It’s not rigid, its flexible,
and while it doesn’t direct our partners to do a lot of things It recognizes that our partners are
incredibly important to achieving conservation for the aquatic resources
here for the imperiled species. -The strategy identifies aquatic species
conservation objectives and recommends a management approach for conserving in
recovering prioritize species and locations across the basin. -We can’t
do it with our partners and there are many places in areas where our mission goals
and objectives overlap with those of our partners and where that’s true we will
be working together with our partners. But perhaps the most important partner
in this effort by the people who live in the upper Tennessee River Basin and rely
on its resources. -The public has an enormous role in protecting the
Upper Tennessee River Basin, in fact we’re entirely reliant on them, since most of
the landscape is under private land ownership–we are relying on the
partnerships that we have with private landowners and organizations,
municipalities, to engage in good stewardship, to modify the way they
do things, to think of things in a different way, the way they do things, to be a little
bit more cognizant of the aquatic critter that’re in their backyard and
what they can do to protect them. The land and the waters sustain us therefore
we owe it back to the land in the waters to act in a way that sustains them and
if we continue to carry the viewpoint that our actions have consequences and
vice versa and long-term sustainability is what our target has to be then I
think we’ll make some strides toward real solutions to continue in the
preservation and conservation of this resource.

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