January 19th, 2007 07:37 EST
Draft Plan to Recover Endangered Silvery Minnow Available
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that it has released a draft revised Recovery Plan that outlines recovery strategies for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow, a fish native to its namesake river and the Pecos River. The plan outlines suggested conservation measures for improving and increasing the fish's population and habitat. The plan's goal is to recover the minnow so that it no longer needs Endangered Species Act protection. Comments on the draft are sought through April 18, 2007.
Recovery plans are prepared for Federally threatened or endangered species. They outline conservation strategies, provide recovery criteria, identify partners, and include an implementation schedule of recovery actions with suggested timelines and estimated costs. Recovery plans do not obligate the federal government or its partners to implement the plan. Cooperation is fully voluntary.
"The plan serves as a blueprint to recover the minnow," said Benjamin N. Tuggle, Ph.D., Regional Director of the Service's Southwest Region. "We believe the fish should have healthy, self-sustaining populations in three separate areas of its historic range with the habitat and water quality to support them. Most importantly, a healthy minnow population reflects a healthy river - something we all appreciate."
Once widespread throughout the entire Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers, the silvery minnow is now found only in the New Mexico reach from Cochiti Dam to Elephant Butte Reservoir in. The decline of the silvery minnow may be attributed to destruction and modification of habitat due to dewatering and diversion, water impoundment and river modifications. Competition and predation by introduced non-native species, water quality degradation, and other factors also contributed to its decline.
"The draft Recovery Plan includes our best advice on how to restore a native fish that belongs in the Rio Grande," said Tuggle. "We had the assistance of many knowledgeable, talented people in crafting this plan. I welcome comments."
The Recovery Plan was drafted by an interagency team who is familiar with fisheries and water issues in the Southwest. The team's make-up mirrors the collaborative approach embraced by the agencies, Tribes and organizations who work together to manage the river. In the last five years, key local, state and federal entities and non-governmental organizations in New Mexico have cooperated through the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program to meet water delivery obligations while conserving the wildlife that depends upon the river.
The plan recommends three separate fish populations. It identifies several possible locations to consider reintroducing the fish. The Service is exploring the Big Bend area of the Rio Grande as a possible site for reintroduction.
In addition to addressing the abundance and distribution of silvery minnow, the plan recognizes the vital role that habitat and water quality play in the minnow's survival and recovery. The Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers once migrated across wide floodplains. These floodplains included numerous secondary channels, backwaters, lakes and marshes. Floods supported a high water table that maintained some open water during very dry times. Such an environment was ideal for supporting silvery minnows. Restoring these habitats throughout the middle Rio Grande and reestablishment areas is critical to recovering this species.
The plan is available on the internet at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Library/ or by calling 505-761-4710 or writing to the Field Supervisor, US Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Field Office, 2501 Osuna, Albuquerque 87113. Comments may be mailed to this address, sent via fax to 505-761-342-2542 or by electronic mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 546 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. Visit the Service's website at http://www.fws.gov.
Elizabeth Slown, 505-248-6909 or 505-363-9592 (cell), Elizabeth_slown@fws.gov