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Smelt Becomes Ammo in Water Wars

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Environmental groups say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not taking the San Francisco Bay Delta longfin smelt's risk of extinction seriously. The latest shot in the water wars between environmentalists and agribusiness challenges the federal agency's classifying the smelt as not endangered.

The USFWS, a creature of the Department of the Interior, found that the longfin smelt is not a "distinct population" entitled to protected status because it migrates up the coast to breed with other longfin - a conclusion that the Center for Biological Diversity and Bay Institute say is wrong.

The environmentalists say it is highly unlikely that the 2-inch longfin can swim the length of the San Francisco estuary, and that its reproductive isolation makes the longfin even more vulnerable to population decline.

The groups want the Federal Court remand the government's decision as arbitrary and capricious. They are represented by Lisa Belenky with the Center for Biological Diversity.

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