For Immediate Release, October 11, 2011
Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681
More Than 200 Miles of River Proposed for Protection to Save Endangered Fish in
Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to protect 224 river miles as critical habitat for five endangered fish species in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. The fish were protected under the Endangered Species Act in August as the result of a landmark legal settlement reached earlier this year between the Center for Biological Diversity and the Fish and Wildlife Service to expedite protection decisions for 757 imperiled species across the country. The Center first petitioned for protection for four of the five fish species in 2004.
“Saving endangered species from extinction means protecting the places they live. Today’s habitat proposal gives these highly endangered fish the fighting chance they need to survive and recover,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist with the Center, which is working to protect freshwater species across the Southeast.
The five fish species are endangered by habitat loss and pollution. The designation of critical habitat will require federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that any federally funded or permitted actions will not damage or destroy the fishes’ critical habitat.
The habitat proposed to protect the fish includes 53 river miles for the Cumberland darter in McCreary and Whitley counties, Ky., and Campbell and Scott counties, Tenn.; 27 river miles for the rush darter in Etowah, Jefferson and Winston counties, Ala.; 98 river miles for the yellowcheek darter in Cleburne, Searcy, Stone and Van Buren counties, Ark.; 20 river miles for the chucky madtom in Greene County, Tenn.; and 26 river miles for the laurel dace in Bledsoe, Rhea and Sequatchie counties, Tenn.
“Protecting habitat for these species will also save streams that give drinking water and recreation to Southeast communities,” said Curry. “Living streams and rivers are deeply linked to the rich culture and history of the South, which is home to more species of freshwater animals than anywhere else on Earth. Sadly, the region has already lost many of them to extinction. The protection of habitat for these five fish species will help reverse the tide of extinction and protect the South’s heritage for future generations.”
The Cumberland darter is found in Whitley and McCreary counties, Ky., and Campbell and Scott counties, Tenn. It is threatened by pollution from mountaintop-removal coal mining, which has also recently been linked to increased incidence of cancer and birth defects in human communities. The darter is also threatened by pollution from logging, agriculture and construction. The Center petitioned for federal protection of the Cumberland darter in 2004.
The chucky madtom is a rare catfish known from only two streams in Tennessee — Dunn Creek in Sevier County and Little Chucky Creek in Greene County. Only three chucky madtom individuals have been encountered since 2000; the fish likely survives only in Little Chucky. It is threatened by pollution from agriculture and animal feedlots. The Center petitioned to protect the madtom under the Endangered Species Act in 2004.
The laurel dace is found in Bledsoe and Rhea counties, Tenn., on the Walden Ridge portion of the Cumberland Plateau. It is threatened by pollution from logging, coal mining, agriculture and rock removal.
The rush darter occurs in Etowah, Jefferson and Winston counties, Ala. It is threatened by pollution from urbanization and logging. The Center filed a petition seeking federal protection for the rush darter in 2004.
The yellowcheek darter is found in the Little Red River and its tributaries in Cleburne, Searcy, Stone and Van Buren counties, Ark. Much of its original habitat was lost following the construction of a dam on the Little Red River to create Greers Ferry Reservoir. It is also threatened by natural gas development, pollution from animal feedlots, cattle grazing, clearcut logging and gravel mining. The Center sought Endangered Species Act protection for the yellowcheek darter in 2004.