An environmental group has sued a federal agency to try to get protection for a freshwater crayfish in Kentucky.
The lawsuit has ramifications for surface mining in Eastern Kentucky, among other activities.
The complaint says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has missed a deadline to decide whether the Big Sandy crayfish warrants protection as a threatened or endangered species.
The lawsuit seeks to force the federal agency to make a decision.
If the crayfish is listed as threatened or endangered, federal agencies that issue permits for activities such as mining and road construction would have to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about ways to reduce impacts on the creature and its habitat, said Tierra Curry, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
The center filed the lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Washington, D.C., against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The crayfish is threatened by pollution from surface mining, and by logging, highway construction and poor sewage treatment that impairs water quality, according to the lawsuit.
The crayfish lives in streams in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, but it has been wiped out in much of its habitat because of pollution, the lawsuit says.