Center for Biological Diversity

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


Contact: Larry Winslett, Sierra Club: 706.864.2661 cell: 404.375.8405
Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity: 520.907.1533
Wayne Jenkins, Forestwatch:706.635.8733
Marty Bergoffen, Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project: 828.258.2667

Conservationists Sue Federal Government to Conserve Endangered Fish Habitat

Secretary of Interior and US Fish and Wildlife Service Ignore Legal Mandate to Protect Fish Habitat in Four States

Atlanta, Georgia - Four conservation groups filed a lawsuit today in Federal District Court in Atlanta, Georgia aimed at protecting the habitat of two species of endangered fish. In the suit, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Forestwatch, and the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project charge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Secretary of Interior Gale Norton with failure to designate critical habitat as required by the Endangered Species Act.

Blue Shinner

The Goldline Darter and the Blue Shiner are species of southeastern freshwater fish whose habitat has been markedly diminished in Georgia, Alabama (and for the Blue Shiner, also in Tennessee). Both species face extinction due to habitat destruction and fragmentation from sewage pollution, the construction of dams, sedimentation, and increased sprawl development.

The Blue Shiner and the Goldline Darter were designated as threatened species by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on April 15, 1992. Provisions in the Endangered Species Act allow the agency in some cases to postpone designation of critical habitat for up to one year. More than eleven years later, FWS still has not made critical habitat designation for either species. The lawsuit alleges that this failure has allowed further degradation of the fishes' habitat and reduction of their population.

Critical Habitat under the Endangered Species Act is defined as areas essential for survival and recovery of a species. Critical Habitat adds an additional important layer of protection for imperiled fish and wildlife. Under the Act, federal agencies are barred from granting permits, funding or authorizing activities that would destroy the habitat areas.

Peter Galvin, Conservation Director for the Center for Biological Diversity said, Habitat protection is the key to survival for endangered species. Critical Habitat protection is urgently needed to prevent the extinction of the Goldline Darter and Blue Shiner.

Gloden Darter

For a more information or a copy of the groups' Complaint, please call Plaintiff’s Counsel: Lawrence Sanders, Emory University School of Law 404.712.8008 or Curtis Cox, Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest 404.659.3122


The goldline darter occurs in the Cahaba River System, Alabama, and in fragmented populations in the upper Coosa River System, Georgia. It is a slender, medium-sized fish, about 3 inches long with brownish-red and amber dorsolateral stripes. The goldline darter has a pale to dusky back, and prefers a moderate to swift current and water depths greater than 2 feet. It is found over sand or gravel substrate interspersed among cobble and small boulders. Practically nothing is known about its life history.

The blue shiner has been extirpated from the Cahaba River System and occurs in fragmented populations in the upper Coosa River System, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. It is a medium-sized minnow that may attain 4 inches in total length. It often appears to be dusky blue with pale yellow. The blue shiner habitat contains sand and gravel substrate among cobble in cool, clear water.


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