For Immediate Release, May 5, 2009
Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Sally Stefferud, (602) 274-5544
Fish and Wildlife Service Will Consider Additional Critical Habitat for
Two Threatened Southwestern Fish
Albuquerque, N.M.— In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to reconsider critical habitat for the threatened spikedace and loach minnow – two southwestern fish that have been eliminated from more than 80 percent of their historic ranges in Arizona and New Mexico. In granting the remand, Judge Conway from the U.S. District Court District of New Mexico refused to grant a request from the Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico Counties for Stable Economic Growth, who had brought their own challenge to critical habitat, to vacate the existing critical habitat.
“Because of the political shenanigans of the Bush administration, these two fish species did not receive the protection they need to survive and recover,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With today’s decision, they will retain the protection they do have and have a shot at much more protected habitat.”
The Center brought the lawsuit as part of a larger campaign to overturn politically tainted decisions concerning endangered species by the Bush administration. To date, the Center has challenged decisions denying listing or providing inadequate critical habitat for 45 species in 28 states, affecting as much as 8 million acres of critical habitat. Many of the illegal decisions, including the decision over critical habitat for the spikedace and loach minnow, were engineered by former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald, who resigned in disgrace following a scathing investigation by the inspector general of misconduct at the Department of the Interior.
“The Bush administration is gone, but cleaning up the mess they made in the endangered species program will take years,” said Greenwald.
Spikedace and loach minnows were once common throughout much of the Verde, Salt, San Pedro, Gila, and other rivers of Arizona and New Mexico, but have been dramatically reduced by a combination of habitat destruction and nonnative species. Julie MacDonald overruled agency scientists and ordered drastic reductions in critical habitat for both fish, slashing proposed critical habitat from 807 to 260 river miles for spikedace and from 898 to 427 river miles for loach minnow. These reductions were justified In part by only including streams where the two fish had been seen in recent years, rather than those necessary to recover the fish to a larger and more viable portion of their historic range.
“The native fish fauna of the Southwest are quickly disappearing, and the spikedace and loach minnow are no exception,” said Sally Stefferud, a retired fisheries biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “I’m glad the efforts of the Bush administration to minimize protections for endangered species are over.”
The Center’s lawsuits have largely been successful with the Fish and Wildlife Service agreeing to date to redo critical habitat designations for 18 species, including now the spikedace and loach minnow. In addition, the Service reconsidered listing the rare, highly imperiled Mexican garter snake as an endangered species and determined that protection is warranted.
For more information about the Center’s campaign to clean up the Bush endangered species legacy see: