After more than two decades of research and recovery efforts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Tuesday to remove the Oregon chub from its threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. The three-inch minnow is endemic to the Willamette Valley of western Oregon where it now flourishes in floodplain habitats of sloughs and silty marshes. The chub is the first fish to ever make it off the Endangered Species List — without going extinct.
The ESA turned 40 years old in December and a great deal of criticism has been aimed its way over the last few decades. Just a few short years after its conception, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ESA was designed to halt and reverse species extinction “whatever the cost.” But some say that cost is too high. State and federal agencies spent more than $1.7 billion on threatened and endangered species in 2012 alone. Billions of dollars, habitat restrictions, and untold manpower stretching across four decades have recovered just 30 species. There are currently 1,519 threatened and endangered U.S. species on the list.
Historically the ESA has proven successful at arresting species teetering on the brink of extinction. It’s the recovery process that moves more slowly. Although 40 years is a short time to reverse centuries of human impact, at times the ESA list seems like a conservation black hole from which species rarely escape.
But this one tiny fish from Oregon is finally making it off the list. Here’s how. [ Read Full Post ]