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For Immediate Release, June 21, 2010

Contact: Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Science Shows Utah Fish Needs Protection, But No Protection Given

Growing Backlog of Species Highlights Need for Agency Reform

SALT LAKE CITY— In response to a petition and litigation from the Center for Biological Diversity and others, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today agreed with the Center that the least chub, a small Utah fish, warrants protection as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act — meaning the best available science points toward the need to protect the fish — but said such protection is precluded by listing of other higher priority species.

With this announcement, the fish joins a growing backlog of species waiting for protection. In many cases, species have been waiting decades; some have gone extinct while on the waiting list.

“Under the Bush administration, listing of new species ground to a near halt,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Just as he’s failed to reform the Mineral Management Service, Interior Secretary Salazar has also failed to enact reforms at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

With today’s announcement, there are 253 species designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service as candidates for protection. Under the Bush administration only a total of 62 species were listed, compared to 522 under Clinton and 231 during the senior Bush presidency. To date, the Obama administration has not substantially increased the pace of species listings. Although the administration did finalize protection for 48 species from the Island of Kauai, it has only finalized protection for two plants in the continental United States and has not proposed protection for a single species since July 9 of last year, meaning that few species are likely to see protection in 2010. The least chub is the seventh species the administration has designated as “warranted but precluded.”  

“Wholesale reform is needed at the Fish and Wildlife Service to unseat a culture of delay and foot-dragging,” said Greenwald. “Lack of reform at the Service is endangering the country’s wildlife.”

Least chub were once widely distributed in the rivers, streams, marshes and springs over much of Utah west of the Wasatch Front, where they fed on small invertebrates like mosquito larvae. Today they are found naturally in just six complexes of springs and ponds and are threatened by a combination of factors, including nonnative species such as mosquito fish, livestock grazing, suburban sprawl, and — of greatest concern — proposed groundwater pumping by the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

“If the least chub and hundreds of other species are going to survive, they need protection under the Endangered Species Act and not foot-dragging by an inefficient agency,” said Greenwald.

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