A freshwater mussel species once found throughout the Rio Grande drainage has been placed on the U.S. endangered species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued the listing last week for the Texas hornshell, drawing praise from environmentalists and criticism from a Republican congressman.
Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity said the listing gives the unique mussel an excellent chance of survival "in the face of would-be dam-builders and polluters" in the mussel's habitat.
"This is good news for the hornshell and for all of us who rely on clean water and find solace and peace in rivers that still flow," Robinson said.
The Santa Fe, New Mexico-based WildEarth Guardians said it was pleased with the listing since there are only five known populations of Texas hornshell remaining in the U.S.
"Freshwater mussels are one of the most endangered groups of animals in the United States," said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. "We are thrilled that the hornshell now has the legal protections it needs to escape extinction."
But Rep. Steve Pearce, a Hobbs, New Mexico, Republican, said the listing could harm local communities, businesses, jobs, and may reduce New Mexico's revenues from local energy production.
"I am troubled that the FWS decided to make this decision despite a serious lack of scientific information," Pearce said in a statement. "The FWS does not know the status of mussel populations in Mexico and failed to involve Mexico in recovery even though a significant portion of the mussel's habitat is found there."
Texas hornshell can be found in the Black River of southeastern New Mexico, the Pecos and Devil's rivers in Texas, and two populations on the Lower Rio Grande.