Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places of western North America
and the Pacific through science, policy, education, and environmental law.

For Immediate Release: April 4, 2001
For More Information: Please Contact Peter Galvin (520) 907-1533 or (510) 841-0812 x2



In response to a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 1,148 miles of rivers in four states, including 300 feet of habitat bordering both shorelines, as critical habitat for the Arkansas River shiner, a threatened native fish. The designation includes portions of the Arkansas River in Kansas, the Cimarron River in Kansas and Oklahoma, the Beaver/North Canadian River in Oklahoma, and the Canadian/South Canadian River in New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.

“The Arkansas River Shiner is like a modern day canary in the coal mine. Its demise has paralleled the degradation and depletion of the Arkansas River system. Millions of people depend on the Arkansas River for their survival and by protecting the shiner and its habitat, we will help ensure a living river and more prosperous future for our children and the entire ecosystem that relies on the Arkansas River”stated Peter Galvin, Conservation Biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity. Galvin added “Without a healthy river system with functioning habitat, the shiner will go extinct. It’s continued existence is dependent on the health of the Arkansas River system.” Galvin further noted “The final designation appears to be a well-crafted rule and will help bring habitat protection and recovery for the shiner and the river system as a whole.”

Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations. These areas do not necessarily have to be occupied by the species at the time of designation, if they are considered essential to the recovery of the species. A critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and only applies to situations where Federal funding or a Federal permit is involved. It has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not involve Federal funding or permits.

The final designation covers five stretches of rivers in four units. Unit 1, which is divided into two parts, includes 500 miles along the Canadian River in New Mexico and the Canadian/South Canadian River in Texas and Oklahoma. Unit 2 includes 161 miles along the Beaver/North Canadian River in Oklahoma. Unit 3 includes 134 miles along the Cimarron River in Kansas and Oklahoma. Unit 4 includes 353 miles along the Arkansas River in Kansas.
The Arkansas River shiner is a small (maximum length of two inches), silvery minnow with a small, dorsally flattened head and a rounded snout. The species once inhabited wide, sandy-bottomed rivers and streams throughout the Arkansas River Basin in Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Today, the fish is found primarily in scattered reaches of the Canadian River in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. It requires at least 80 consecutive miles of river to complete its life cycle.

Threats to the shiner include habitat loss from construction of water impoundments, reduction of stream flows caused by water diversions or groundwater withdrawals, declines in water quality, and competition from the Red River shiner, an introduced species.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a science-based environmental advocacy organization headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The Center was founded in 1989, has more than 6,000 members and maintains offices in New Mexico, Arizona, California and Washington. The Center works to protect endangered species and wild places throughout western North America and the Pacific through science, policy, education and environmental law.
To view a photograph of the Arkansas River Shiner or to see a map of the critical habitat designation please go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website at <>.


Go back