Coal mining and fracking spurred the federal government's decision Thursday to list at least one crayfish as an endangered species in coal country and another as threatened, which likely will make business trickier for companies in parts of West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday that after a year of seeking to verify the threat posed to the crustaceans, also known as "mudbugs," the agency determined that the Guyandotte River crayfish will be listed as endangered and the Big Sandy crayfish listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.
The service published the action as a final rule in Thursday's Federal Register.
The agency answered concerns posed by business in the final action. Industry groups told the agency that it appeared it was unfairly citing coal mining and other industrial activities in the states as threats to the crayfish.
The agency's answer in Thursday's final rule verified those concerns, listing not only coal as a threat, but also timber operations and oil and gas activities.
"The primary threat to the Big Sandy and Guyandotte River crayfishes is habitat degradation caused by erosion and sedimentation from land-disturbing activities, including coal mining, commercial timber operations, road construction, [off-road vehicle] use, oil and gas development, and unpaved road surfaces," the agency said.
The crayfish rule was made in response by petitions by the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity, which chalked up Thursday's decision as a big win.
The group says coal mining is a primary cause of the crayfishes losing half of their habitat and that the listings means more regulatory hoops for businesses looking to get permits for mining or anything else.
"Today's listing means that federal agencies will have to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before funding or permitting any activity that could harm the animals, and it is now illegal for any person or corporation to harm the crayfishes or their habitat," the group said.
The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., posted the headline "Crayfish etouffee? Not for these rare mudbugs."