WASHINGTON (CN) – The Sacramento splittail fish does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined.
The splittail was removed from the list of endangered species by the agency in 2003.
The 2003 action was the subject of controversy, as it was one of the listing decisions that the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior determined may have been unduly influenced by political appointee Julie MacDonald, who overruled the listing recommendations of career agency staff.
The latest review began as part of a settlement between the agency and the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed suit in 2009 to challenge the 2003 decision to delist the foot long fish which has proved adept at surviving in the low oxygen, relatively high saline conditions of the Sacramento River Delta.
In its 2009 complaint against the Agency, the environmental group argued that MacDonald, then the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Fish, Wildlife and Parks, had a financial conflict of interest when she “bullied, insulted and harassed the professional staff” into changing the language and final determination of the 2003 action. Julie MacDonald’s husband owned an 80 acre farm in Yolo county with suitable splittail habitat.
While the agency recognized that water diversion throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta had altered and reduced the available habitat for the splitttail, it stated that it could not conclude that a long term, and irreversible decline in the population of the fish had occurred based on the evidence evaluated during the status review.
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