WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated approximately 282 miles of streams, and 241,438 acres of lakes and reservoirs of critical habitat in Klamath and Lake Counties in Oregon, and in Modoc County, Calif., for the Lost River sucker and the shortnose sucker, according to the agency's statement.
The two fish species were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1988, the final rule stated.
"Critical habitat was first proposed for these species in 1994, but was never completed due to higher conservation priorities for the listed suckers," the agency said.
The 1994 critical habitat proposal was in response to a suit filed in federal court by the Oregon Natural Resources Council, now known as Oregon Wild. The conservation group contacted the Department of Justice requesting that the USFWS issue a final critical habitat rule "within a reasonable amount of time," the rule stated. A May 10, 2010 settlement agreement spurred the revised December 2011 proposal and the current final designation, according to the regulation.
"The final critical habitat designation includes significantly less area than what was proposed in 1994 mostly because of modern mapping tools and methods," the agency noted. The 1994 proposal stipulated 880,000 acres of combined habitat for the two fish, according to the agency's statement.
"Threats identified in the final listing rule for these species include: (1) Poor water quality; (2) potential entrainment at water diversion structures; (3) lack of access to essential spawning habitat; (4) lack of connectivity to historical habitat (i.e., migratory impediments); (5) degradation of spawning, rearing, and adult habitat; and (6) avian predation and predation by or competition with nonnative fish," the rule stated.
Poor water quality can result from algal blooms, low water levels due to drought, and sedimentation caused by timber harvesting, road construction, erosion, grazing and agriculture, the action noted.
A critical habitat designation does not restrict or prohibit landowners and others from accessing lakes, rivers, or reservoir areas for recreational and other activities. Because the fish were listed as endangered in 1988, the two sucker species have been protected from "take" (defined as to kill, harm, harass, trap, or wound) under the Endangered Species Act since that time, the agency said.
"Designation of critical habitat can help focus conservation activities for a listed species by identifying areas that contain the physical and biological features that are essential for the conservation of the species," according to the agency's statement.
The final critical habitat designation is effective Jan. 10, 2013.
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