For Immediate Release, September 30, 2021

Contact:

Krista Kemppinen, (602) 558-5931, kkemppinen@biologicaldiversity.org

Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Utah’s Least Chub

Tiny Fish Threatened by Proposed Cedar City Water Pipeline

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the imperiled least chub.

This small fish was once widely distributed in Utah’s Bonneville Basin but now has only seven wild populations left, plus about a dozen refuge populations where the least chub has been reintroduced. Significant habitat loss and alteration, as well as competition and predation from non-native species, have driven this species close to extinction.

More than half of the remaining wild populations are jeopardized by proposed groundwater pumping to support human population growth in Cedar City, Utah. The proposed Pine Valley Water Supply Project would pump billions of gallons of groundwater from Utah’s West Desert, threatening the springs the chub depends on.

“This pipeline is an existential threat to the least chub,” said Krista Kemppinen, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Center. “The state has worked valiantly to secure a future for the least chub, but only the Endangered Species Act can save this unique Utah fish from the Pine Valley water grab.”

The least chub has been considered to be of conservation concern for decades. It was last petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2007. In response, the Service found that listing was warranted but failed to provide any protection.

In 2014 the Service reversed this finding, in part due to the implementation of additional conservation measures led by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

“Despite the efforts by Utah to protect the least chub, such as maintaining refuge populations, the majority of naturally occurring populations continue to decline or are in a precarious state,” said Kemppinen. “In addition to restoring populations, we need to protect the wild places where this species has continued to survive.”

The least chub is a gold-colored fish, typically less than 2.5 inches long, that has evolved to survive in the extreme spring habitats of the Bonneville Basin. First described in 1872, it is the only species in its genus, Iotichthys.

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Least chub. Photo by Esther J. Stokes. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.