GRANTS PASS, Ore. — A small fish found in desert creeks of Southern Oregon and Northern California has recovered enough to get off the endangered species list, federal biologists said Wednesday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the Modoc sucker no longer is in danger of extinction, after nearly 30 years of recovery efforts.
The Modoc sucker is the second fish in two weeks proposed for delisting. It was listed in 1985 due to loss of habitat. Recovery efforts have focused on working with landowners, both private and public, to reduce overgrazing and fence livestock out of streams. The proposal goes through a 60-day public comment period before a final decision.
“The Endangered Species Act has not only helped prevent the Modoc sucker from going extinct, it has also promoted its recovery to the point that today, we believe that federal protections are no longer needed,” Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement. “Although this fish is small in stature, its recovery is a big victory in our efforts to preserve our natural heritage.”
The action comes as Republicans in Congress are trying to change the Endangered Species Act to limit lawsuits and give states more power.
The Modoc sucker grows to about 7 inches long, and can live up to five years. It is found only in the Pit River drainage in the high desert country of Modoc and Lassen counties in California, and the Goose Lake subbasin in Lake County in Oregon.
When it was listed as endangered in 1985, the Modoc sucker could be found only in seven streams covering 12.9 miles. Today, it can be found in 12 streams covering 42.5 miles, Fish and Wildlife said.
Like the Oregon chub proposed for delisting last week, the Modoc sucker inhabits a small geographic area, with limited economic conflicts.
That is in stark contrast to two other species of endangered sucker at the center of a longstanding fight over water in the nearby Klamath Basin. The Lost River sucker and snortnosed sucker have declined as livestock grazing, draining marshlands to create farmland, and irrigation withdrawals to feed a major federal irrigation project damaged habitat and water quality in Upper Klamath Lake and its tributaries. After years of habitat improvement projects and occasional irrigation shutoffs, the fish continue to struggle.
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