James River and Chesapeake Bay Foundation partner to save mussel populations

Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 10:36 PM EST
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - “When you think about freshwater mussels, they are perhaps the most endangered class of organisms in the country,” says Dr. Joseph Wood, Senior Scientist for The Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

With Joint grants under The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, both the James River and Chesapeake Bay Foundations can start to find solutions on how to protect and grow the mussel populations across the region.

Specifically, Virginia will receive $500,000 through the West Virginia Land Trust. The trust will aid in clean water and habitat building for Virginia’s mussel population.

Wood states, “Baby mussels are sensitive to water quality, and if we don’t have clean water, they can’t survive. Also, we have dams that prevent the right fish from getting up there. Those fish are not there, the mussels are unable to reproduce. There are a variety of other things, we’ve lost habitat, we’ve had too much impervious surface. We’ve got toxic pollutants in the waterways. All these culminated to cause significant decline in freshwater mussels.”

The grant money will allow the Chesapeake Bay foundation to create an interactive map of Virginia that highlights stretches of streams and rivers with critical freshwater mussel habitat. The goal is to guide restoration and conservation efforts for both foundations in the future.

Anna Killius, Director of Advocacy for The James River Foundation, says restoring mussels goes beyond habitat and requires working with law makers and policies.

Killius states, “While we are getting this plan in place, also starting to talk to policy makers and funders. Make sure they are prepared for what we are going to do with that plan after it’s created. We are going to need funding in place to support these restoration activities once we know where they should happen.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says limiting the use of pesticides and fertilizers helps keep waterways clean and mussels protected for a brighter future.