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For Immediate Release, October 1, 2008


Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Don Duff, Great Basin Chapter Trout Unlimited, (801) 201-1008
Rupert Steele, Goshute Reservation, (435) 234-1138
Jim Catlin, Wild Utah Project, (801) 328-3550

Protection Sought for Key Desert Fish
Snake Valley Water Pumping Threatens Survival of Least Chub

SALT LAKE CITY— The Center for Biological Diversity, Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, and Great Basin Chapter of Trout Unlimited today filed a formal notice of intent to sue Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne for failing to respond to a petition to protect the least chub, a rare fish species found only in Utah, as a threatened or endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act. The least chub has been reduced to six fragile wild populations, three of which occur in the Snake Valley, where planned pumping of water for runaway growth in Las Vegas is a serious threat to the tiny fish’s survival.

“The least chub is on the verge of extinction,” said Noah Greenwald, science director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This small, minnow-like fish is an important part of the web of life in Utah. It’s found nowhere else in the world, and it badly needs the effective protection of the Endangered Species Act to survive.”

Least chub were once widely distributed in the rivers, streams, marshes and springs over much of Utah west of the Wasatch Front, where they fed on small invertebrates, such as mosquito larvae. Today, they are found naturally in just six complexes of springs and ponds, and are threatened by a combination of factors, including nonnative species, such as mosquito fish, livestock grazing, suburban sprawl, and — of greatest concern — proposed groundwater pumping by the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

“In 30 years of working with the least chub, I’ve seen populations drop precipitously in the face of excessive groundwater pumping, exotic species, and other factors,” said Don Duff, president of the Great Basin Chapter of Trout Unlimited, former federal fisheries biologist, and a landowner in Snake Valley. “Decline of the least chub is an indicator of declining water tables that will also harm farmers, ranchers and dozens of other species that depend on desert streams and springs of the Snake Valley, including the Bonneville cutthroat trout — the state fish of Utah.”

In order for Las Vegas to continue its irresponsible exponential growth, the city proposes to take distant water from traditional tribal lands, wildlife habitat, and ranchers. These Great Basin water sources are already used to their limit, and have become even more critically important as we face climate change. The Southern Nevada Water Authority proposes to drill nine pumping stations just inside Nevada, from the Utah-Nevada border in Snake Valley, to withdraw 25,000 to 50,000 acre-feet a year of groundwater.

“As the climate changes, we can no longer promote irresponsible urban development such as what now occurs in Las Vegas,” said Jim Catlin, with Wild Utah Project. “In order for all to survive in a new climate, Las Vegas will need to be responsible in how it uses water and act in the best interests of its neighbors.”

Under the Endangered Species Act, the Bush administration should have issued within 90 days an initial finding of whether the petition presented sufficient information to warrant further consideration and another finding within 12 months of receiving the petition on whether the species warranted protection.

”The least chub is an ambassador from an imperiled ecosystem — desert springs in western Utah,” said Rupert Steele of the Goshute Reservation. ”If we can save this fish, we know we will have protected an ecosystem and the people whose lives depend on it for future generations.”


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