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Splittail Gets Second|Chance at ESA List

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct a year long status review of the Sacramento splittail, a cyprinid fish native to the low-elevation waters of California's Central Valley.

It is the sole living member of its genus, the Clear Lake splittail having become extinct in the 1970s.

The agency's decision comes after the Center for Biological Diversity's challenged the USFWS on the merits of the 2003 determination to remove the splittail from the Endangered Species List, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The environmental group also alleged improper political influence of the former Department of Interior, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish Wildlife and Parks, Julie MacDonald.

MacDonald was forced to resign in May of 2007 after an internal investigation found that she had undermined the scientific findings of her own staff and interjected herself in Endangered Species Act listing decisions in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations. A December 2008 report by Department of Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney found that MacDonald had interfered with 13 of the 20 endangered species rulings that were reevaluated in his investigation.

Environmentalist and conservation groups believe that the annual system of flooding and dyke management of the Sacramento River as it flows through the Sacramento Delta is having a negative impact on the splittail's spawning habitat.

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