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Abstract

The success or failure of the 1973 Endangered Species Act in protecting freshwater mussels, which constitute a substantial portion of the species listed as threatened or endangered in the US, is examined. Current human threats to the survival of mussel species are reviewed, as are tools provided by the Act that might be used to protect and restore them. While the Act has prevented the extinction of most species of freshwater mussels, many remain critically endangered and declining. The inability of the statute to provide for freshwater mussel species recovery is attributed to the near-impossibility of recovering a species after most of its habitat has been destroyed, flaws in the Act that render it more difficult to address threats to endangered freshwater aquatic species, and a persistent and historic bias against funding and enforcement of the Act to protect freshwater mussels.

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