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For Immediate Release, November 30, 2012

Contact: Emily Jeffers, (415) 779-4253,

Federal Court Upholds Habitat Protections for Threatened Green Sturgeon in
California, Oregon, Washington

Only Remaining Spawning Habitat in Sacramento River Preserved

SAN FRANCISCO— A federal court today upheld the designation of 8.6 million acres of critical habitat for the threatened green sturgeon in California, Oregon and Washington, including the sturgeon’s only remaining spawning habitat in the Sacramento River. This spring, the property-rights organization Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of developers and corporations trying to eliminate protections the National Marine Fisheries Service had determined were essential to the conservation and recovery of the green sturgeon.

“Scientists have warned that if we don’t protect their most important habitat, southern green sturgeon will likely go extinct,” said Emily Jeffers, at attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Designating critical habitat is a safety net that ensures the sturgeon’s only remaining spawning grounds are safe from development, dredging and water diversions.”

The green sturgeon is one of the most ancient fish species in the world; it can live as long as 70 years and reach 7.5 feet in length. The sturgeon was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 2006. In 2009 the Fisheries Service designated coastal and river areas in California, Oregon and Washington as critical habitat for the green sturgeon, the subject of the challenge that was defeated today. The Center intervened on behalf of the species in order to ensure essential habitat protections remained in place; it has fought to protect green sturgeon since 2001, when it submitted a petition to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act.

The Act requires the Fisheries Service to designate critical habitat for a species once it is listed as threatened or endangered. Federal agencies must ensure that any actions they authorize, fund or carry out do not destroy critical habitat. Studies have shown that species with designated critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be recovering than those without.

Those protections are particularly important in the Sacramento River, where as of 2006, fewer than 50 spawning pairs remained.

“The green sturgeon needs all the help it can get,” said Jeffers. “Today’s ruling gives this prehistoric fish a fighting chance at recovery.”

For more information about the green sturgeon, visit our website.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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