loach minnow and spikedace are two tiny river-dwelling fish,
both about three inches long, native to the Gila River basin
in New Mexico and Arizona. Watersheds and river-dependent
animals and plants have suffered drastic devastation in the
Southwest over the past century, making the Gila an important
focus of the Center's conservation work. Eliminated throughout
most of their range due to habitat destruction, both the fish
are federally listed as threatened, though an "endangered"
listing is warranted.
Center had brought about critical habitat designation for
the two species in 1994, but the designation was overturned
on a technicality. In 1999, in response to another Center
suit, habitat was redesignated to the tune of 900 river miles.
In 2000, the critical habitat designation allowed us to challenge
livestock overgrazing on national forests in the two states.
Cattle are the main threat to the loach minnow and spikedace;
their streamside grazing eradicates vegetation that shades
the streams and keeps them cool, removes grasses that stabilize
the soil, tramples the stream banks, pollutes the water, and
creates massive erosion.
a result of the challenge, in 2000 the Bureau of Land Management
agreed to review the impacts of grazing on 341,140 acres in
Arizona-laying the groundwork for a major revision of grazing
policy for riverbanks on public lands.