The Trump administration is being sued by the Center for Biological Diversity and the group Healthy Gulf for failing to protect two freshwater turtle species that reside only in Louisiana and Mississippi.
The lawsuit states that the Pearl River and Pascagoula turtles should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. In 2010, environmental groups pushed to have these turtles protected under the Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to make a decision on their Act status partially because it is unclear whether or not they are two separate species or variations of another. Recent studies show that the Pearl River and Pascagoula turtles are, in fact, two separate species.
Conservation efforts have been and will continue to be arduous because we know so little about the two species; Pearl River map turtles are among the least-studied turtle species in the country. According to Andrew Whitehurst, Healthy Gulf's water program director, the government's lack of initiative has allowed for harmful dredging and damming practices in and around the Pearl River.
The Center for Biological Diversity views the suggested "One Lake" dam project in Mississippi's Rankin and Hinds counties as an immense threat to the Pearl River map turtle and its habitat. The Pearl River map turtle is also vulnerable to trapping, pollution, and habitat loss. They tend to line up on fallen trees, making them a clear target for hunters.
The dwindling Pearl River map turtle population has fallen below the level of other species protected by the Endangered Species Act. In 2016, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the ringed map species were more plentiful than the Pearl River map turtle.