Center for Biological Diversity

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

For Immediate Release: September 7, 2006

Noah Greenwald, Conservation Biologist, 503-484-7494
Sally Stefferud, Fisheries Biologist, 602-274-5544

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Two Native Southwest Fish
Rare Fish Headed For Extinction While Bush Administration Plays Political Games

TUCSON, Ariz. – The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for illegally denying protection to the roundtail and headwater chubs under the Endangered Species Act.

In denying protection for the two fish on May 3, 2006, FWS did not find the two fish species are safe from extinction, but instead denied protection based on technical grounds. FWS determined that the population of roundtail chub in the lower Colorado River Basin is not significant to the species as a whole, and that listing the headwater chub is warranted but precluded by higher priority actions.

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

To date, the Bush administration has protected only 56 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 most of the aquatic animals of the Southwest, the roundtail and headwater chubs are threatened by the widespread destruction of our rivers and streams and the escalating introduction and spread of nonnative species," said Sally Stefferud, retired fisheries biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "In the next 20-30 years, the Southwest is poised for the extinction of most of its native stream-dwelling animals at a rate 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, as it 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 more than 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 this illegal decision in court.”

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


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