Mussel-Friendly Restoration

A Guide to the Essential Steps for Protecting Freshwater Mussels in Aquatic and Riparian Restoration, Construction, and Land Management Projects and Activities


By Emilie Blevins, Laura McMullen, Sarina Jepsen, Michele Blackburn, Aimée Code, and Scott Hoffman Black

In 2017, the Xerces Society published Conserving the Gems of Our Waters, which outlined BMPs for freshwater mussels, a group of invertebrates found in our rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. Mussels provide incredible benefits to aquatic ecosystems and human communities but are sensitive to disturbance. In recent years there have been increasing efforts to replace aging infrastructure, enhance road crossings to improve access for fish, restore streamside and shoreline forests, and repair rivers and streams that have been channelized, hardened, and degraded. Often the end result of these projects is a better bridge or restored river, but because mussels can be harmed by activities associated with this work, it is important to consider and conserve freshwater mussels where they live.

Mussel-Friendly Restoration, published in spring 2019, is a companion guide, intended to answer common questions related to best management practices and serve as useful tool for restoration practitioners, construction project managers, and other professionals while working onsite. Although the document focuses on species of mussels native to western North America, this handbook can be used as a starting point in other regions to conserve not only freshwater mussels, but also the incredible benefits they provide.

Freshwater is fundamental to livelihoods, landscapes, and wildlife. As a result, the way we manage freshwater is important not only to humans but also to the many species of fish, insects, mollusks, plants, and other aquatic organisms that rely on the habitat freshwater provides. Ensuring that our construction projects and restoration efforts not only improve places but also protect fish and wildlife is essential.

Download this guide as a free pdf here, or contact [email protected] to obtain a printed version.

For more information about western freshwater mussels, refer to: xerces.org/western-freshwater-mussels and pnwmussels.org.