In the light of our current economic crisis, the plight of the Allegheny River mussels might seem trivial to a lot of people ("Protecting Allegheny Mussels Creates Stew," March 2; "Panel Calculates Impact of Protecting Mussels," March 7), but within the intimately interconnected web of life that constitutes our dwelling place upon this planet, an injury to even seemingly insignificant creatures can have serious consequences for the rest of us.
Currently, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission wants to list three species of Allegheny River mussels as "endangered" and two others as "threatened," but they are opposed in this primarily by the dredging industry, which extracts gravel at the bottom of the river and then sells it to PennDOT for paving purposes.
At the behest of the dredging industry, Sen. Don White of Indiana County has proposed legislation that would seriously encumber the commission's authority to list endangered and threatened species.
Mussels are beneficial to the human community because, being bivalves, in the process of feeding they strain many pollutants from our waters and the "waste" that they excrete serves as food for algae and certain other aquatic invertebrates, which, in turn, serve as food for the fish, which eventually serve as food for humans. Another way in which mussels benefit humans is that, being extremely sensitive to environmental changes, they serve as the proverbial "canary in the coal mine," warning us of potential ecological perils long before they affect us, thereby giving us the time to avert the danger.
It is essential that Sen. White's legislation be defeated and that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission be able to protect the Allegheny River mussels.