Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

For Immediate Release: May 3, 2006

Contact: Noah Greenwald, Conservation Biologist, 503-484-7495

Roundtail and Headwater Chubs Illegally Denied Protection
Under Endangered Species Act

Rare Native Southwest Fish Headed For Extinction While
Bush Administration Plays Political Games

Phoenix, Ariz. – In response to a petition and lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced today that two native southwest fish, the roundtail and headwater chubs, will not receive protection as threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. In making its determination, the FWS did not find the two fish species are safe from extinction, but rather denied protection based on technical grounds.

“The Bush administration has the worst record of protecting the nation’s wildlife of any modern presidency,” said Noah Greenwald, Conservation Biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The roundtail and headwater chub need the safety net of the Endangered Species Act, not political shenanigans by the Bush administration.”

To date, the Bush administration has protected only 41 species under the Endangered Species Act, compared to 512 under the Clinton administration and 234 under Bush senior’s administration. The Bush administration has delayed and denied protection for hundreds of known imperiled species.

“Like literally hundreds of other animals, the roundtail and headwater chubs are threatened by the wanton destruction of southwest rivers and streams and introduction of nonnative species,” said Greenwald. “In the next 20-30 years, the Southwest is poised for the extinction of most of its stream-dwelling animals at a rate of extinction that is on par with the destruction of tropical rainforests.”

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal scientific petition to gain protection for the two chubs in April 2003, documenting a precipitous decline in both species. FWS acknowledged the headwater chub warrants protection, but alleges that this protection is precluded by other higher priority actions to add species to the list of threatened and endangered species. Such “warranted but precluded” determinations are allowed under the Act only if the administration can demonstrate that it is making “expeditious progress” in protecting other species. Given the administration’s record, such a prospect is dubious at best.

The roundtail chub was denied protection because the administration concluded that populations in the entire lower Colorado River Basin are not significant to the species as a whole, which also occurs in the upper Colorado River Basin. FWS never addressed the degree to which the roundtail chub is imperiled, but given that it has been eliminated in over 80 percent of its historic range and is threatened by the same factors as the headwater chub, it clearly warrants protection.

“To benefit its campaign contributors in the urban sprawl and livestock industries, the Bush administration once again manipulated the law to avoid protecting imperiled wildlife,” said Greenwald. “We are left with no other recourse than to challenge today’s illegal decision in court.”

The roundtail and headwater chubs occur across Arizona and a small portion of New Mexico in tributaries to Little Colorado, Bill Williams, Gila, Salt, San Pedro and Verde rivers. More specific location information is available by phone.


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