A federal lawsuit filed this week by an environmental group alleges two protected crayfish species are being harmed by coal mining in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.
The suit, filed Wednesday in West Virginia by the Center for Biological Diversity, alleges that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has missed the one-year time frame set under the Endangered Species Act in which to designate habitat areas for the two crayfish species.
The Big Sandy crayfish and Guyandotte River crayfish were protected by the Endangered Species Act in 2016 because of habitat loss and water pollution.
The species are endemic to the Appalachian region. Crayfish are scavengers and play a key role in keeping streams healthy by eating decaying plants and animals. They are an important source of food for birds, fish and mammals.
The suit says the crayfish are "highly imperiled due to declining water quality and habitat loss from coal mining and urban development within their watersheds."
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman declined to comment because the lawsuit is pending.
The Center for Biological Diversity wants a judge to compel the agency to designate habitat areas.