WASHINGTON (CN) – The status of two tiny fishes found in the Gila River basin of Arizona should be upgraded from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing.
The agency says the fish are endangered because “the majority of [their] historical native habitat … has been altered or destroyed.”
“Activities such as groundwater pumping, surface water diversions, impoundments, dams, channelization…, improperly managed livestock grazing, wildfire, agriculture, mining, road building, residential development, and recreation all contribute to habitat loss and stream habitat degradation in Arizona and New Mexico” according to the proposal, which goes on to state that as the degradation is caused by humans it is likely to increase as the population increases.
Both species of fish were listed as threatened in 1986. In 1993, the agency, in response to petitions from environmental groups, determined that reclassifying the spikedace and loach minnow as endangered was warranted but precluded by higher priority listing actions.
Critical habitat proposed by the agency in 1986 was immediately challenged in the courts and each subsequent designation to critical habitat has been held-up in court or voluntarily withdrawn by the agency to settle legal action.
As part of its reclassification, the agency also proposes to designate 726 miles of streams as critical habitat for the spikedace and 709 miles of streams as critical habitat for the loach minnow. The proposed critical habitat crosses through nine counties in Arizona and four in New Mexico.