New Life for a Pair of Threatened Species

Two Pennsylvania species--the eastern massasauga and the rabbitsfoot--are among 251 imperiled species that may get new life. An agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and wildlife groups will compel the government to decide whether these species are endangered. Many, like the massasauga, have been on the waiting list for decades. The Allegheny Front's Reid Frazier reports.

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OPEN: A mussel and a snake known around these parts will finally get their day in court. So says an agreement signed by the federal government to enforce parts of the endangered species act. The AF's Reid Frazier has more.

FRAZIER: The news is good for the rabbitsfoot -- a freshwater mussel--and the eastern massasauga -- rattlesnake. Both are native to Pennsylvania. They're among 251 plants and animals that have spent decades languishing on the Endangered Species waiting list. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will finally determine whether these species are endangered and need protection.

The massasauga is a small, shy snake. It's been on the waiting list since 1982. The snake hibernates in wetlands, which face development pressure. One of the snake's former wintering spots is now the Cranberry exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Charles Bier of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy says saving the species could have unforeseen benefits. Its venom, for instance, could be used in medicine.

BIER: Any species is like an unopened book in a library where you don't know the contents and you don't know how to read it.

FRAZIER: A federal judge will decide whether to uphold the agreement. For the Allegheny Front, I'm Reid Frazier.