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For Immediate Release, October 27, 2010

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Nearly 900 Miles of Critical Habitat Proposed for Imperiled Southwestern Fish

Fish and Wildlife Service Also Proposes More Protective Designation for
Spikedace, Loach Minnow

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—  In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed 892 miles of critical habitat for the 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. The agency also proposed that the species be uplisted from threatened to endangered because of continued habitat destruction, spread of invasive species and population declines. Because of industry court challenges and efforts to limit protections during the Bush administration, this is the fourth designation of critical habitat for the fish.

“Increased habitat protection and recognition of the precarious status of these two fish species should raise the alarm bells for emergency action to protect Southwest rivers and streams,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “There is an extinction crisis in Southwest rivers. Habitat destruction and invasive species are putting nearly all of the fish, frog and other aquatic species at risk.”

The Center petitioned to have the spikedace and loach minnow uplisted to endangered in 1993. In response, the Fish and Wildlife Service found the species warranted a change in status, but that the change was precluded by listing of other higher priority species. Critical habitat was originally designated in 1994. The Catron County, N.M., Board of Commissioners challenged that designation, which resulted in a new designation of 898 river miles in 2000. That designation was again challenged, this time by the New Mexico Cattle Growers. The result was a much-reduced designation of 522 river miles by the Bush administration in 2005.

The Center challenged the 2005 designation, resulting in today’s proposal to restore critical habitat to 892 river miles in portions of the Verde, Salt, San Pedro, Blue, San Francisco and Gila rivers and Eagle and Bonita creeks.

“Although they have wasted a great deal of time and taxpayer resources, the efforts of the livestock industry and the Bush administration to undermine protections for these two highly endangered fish ultimately failed,” said Greenwald. “It is time now to focus energy on protecting and restoring Southwest rivers for these fish and dozens of other species. This includes restricting livestock grazing, water withdrawals and other habitat disturbances in riparian areas.”

The Center brought the lawsuit as part of a larger campaign to overturn politically motivated decisions concerning endangered species by the Bush administration. In total, the Center has challenged decisions denying listing or providing inadequate critical habitat for 56 species across the country. So far, these lawsuits have resulted in designation of more than 30 million acres of additional critical habitat.

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