For Immediate Release, May 22, 2008
Contact: Robin Silver, Co-founder/Board member, (602) 246-4170
Lawsuit Notice Filed to Protect Fossil Creek
Forest Service Fails to Conserve Imperiled Native Fish
PHOENIX, Ariz.— The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity today filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Forest Service for Endangered Species Act violations at Fossil Creek. The notice states that the Forest Service has failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the repatriation of native fish while management strategies continue to adversely impact the fish and their habitat. The loach minnow and spikedace — two Arizona native fish species that are federally listed as “threatened” — were returned to Fossil Creek last November.
“The Forest Service has exhibited an incredible lack of ability or desire to take the management actions necessary to preserve this wonderful place or the spikedace and loach minnow,” said Michelle Harrington, rivers conservation manager for the Center for Biological Diversity. “We have repeatedly asked for an emergency closure to overnight camping to reduce the amount of traffic and waste in and along the stream, but the agency continues to drag its feet and offers no solutions or commitments.”
The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to ensure their activities do not adversely impact listed species. In this case, the Forest Service has continued its status quo management operations at Fossil Creek in central Arizona despite very changed circumstances. In light of this, and the impending deluge of visitors expected over the holiday weekend and summer camping season, the Center filed notice.
The loach minnow and spikedace, along with razorback sucker and Gila topminnow, also federally listed, have been repatriated to Fossil Creek following the decommissioning of Arizona Public Service hydropower plants and the restoration of water to the creek. The creek had been dammed and water removed from its 14-mile course for a century until environmental groups, the Yavapai-Apache Nation, and Arizona Public Service signed an historic settlement agreement to restore the creek in 2000. Water was fully restored in 2005, and the loach minnow and spikedace were returned in late 2007. Other native fish, including Sonora and desert sucker, roundtail chub, and speckled dace, have persisted in the creek following nonnative-fish-removal activities performed by state and federal agencies.
Visitation to Fossil Creek has increased dramatically since the restoration of flows. Along with visitation, trash, off-road vehicle use, firearm use, user-created trails, and human waste have also increased dramatically. The Forest Service has refused to adequately respond to the increasing damage or to use its authority to curtail abuse. The resulting impacts reduce the quality of the habitat for the loach minnow and spikedace, causing unnecessary threats to their survival.
“Fossil Creek is a natural wonder,” said Robin Silver, co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s certainly no surprise that people want to enjoy this restored waterway, but there are few places in Arizona so well-suited to supporting populations of these highly imperiled fish. The Forest Service must better manage recreation at Fossil Creek, or the years of effort to restore it will have been wasted.”
The Center has called on the Forest Service to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service, complete management plans that will address recreation and protect listed species, and impose and enforce camping restrictions as necessary to protect Fossil Creek until a management plan is implemented.