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Five Endangered Fish Finally Get Habitat

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 228 river miles and 29 acres of critical habitat for five southeastern fish that gained endangered status last year, according to the agency's press release.

The action is due to the 2011 court settlement between the federal agency and environmental groups to speed protection for hundreds of plants and animals across the country, according to the Center for Biological Diversity's (CBD) statement.

"The Southeast is home to more kinds of freshwater animals than anywhere else in the world, but more than 50 species have already been lost to extinction," the CBD noted.

The designated critical habitat in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas contains stream habitat essential to the conservation of the Cumberland darter, rush darter, yellowcheek darter, Chucky madtom and laurel dace, the USFWS said.

"Only areas that contain habitat essential to the conservation of the species, and where the benefits of this habitat outweigh potential economic impacts, have been included," the agency's statement noted.

'The [economic] analysis found that the present value of the total direct (administrative) incremental cost of critical habitat designation is $644,000 over the next 20 years assuming a seven percent discount rate. Primarily these costs are associated with consultation for water quality management activities, transportation; coal mining; oil and natural gas development; agriculture, ranching, and silviculture; dredging, channelization, impoundments, dams, and diversions; and recreation," according to the regulation.

The fish face threats due to siltation from mining, silviculture (forest management), natural gas development, agriculture, road construction and urban development, the final rule noted.

This action is effective Nov. 15, 2012.

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