The federal government says it will decide whether protection is needed for a freshwater turtle found only in Mississippi and a related species found in Mississippi and Louisiana, per the AP. The agreement settles a lawsuit filed in January calling for a declaration that Pearl River map turtles and Pascagoula map turtles are endangered or threatened. One is found in the Pearl River watershed in Louisiana and Mississippi, and the other only in part of Mississippi’s Pascagoula River system. “North American turtles survived the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, but these two species need help to live through the havoc we’re wreaking on rivers,” Jason Totoiu, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a news release. "These turtles are in steep decline and need the safeguards afforded by the Endangered Species Act before it’s too late."
The government agreed to make a decision on the turtles' status by Oct. 29, 2021, said the statement from the Center for Biological Diversity and Healthy Gulf, another ecological nonprofit. The settlement was proposed June 12 and approved Thursday by a US District Court judge in DC. According to the lawsuit, plans for a dam in Hinds and Rankin counties in south-central Mississippi could wipe out the Pearl River map turtle by turning the rivers where it lives into a lake. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature considers both species endangered. Pascagoula and Pearl River map turtles are among 13 species of map turtles, named for shell markings that resemble maps. They also are called sawbacks because their shells have a central ridge that sometimes develops saw-like points.
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