Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 25, 2023


Meg Townsend, (971) 717-6409,

Lawsuit Launched Over Denial of Endangered Species Protection to Bridled Darter

Fish Threatened by Dams, Pollution, Climate Change in Georgia, Tennessee

ATLANTA, Ga.— The Center for Biological Diversity has just notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it intends to sue the agency for denying Endangered Species Act protection to a fish called the bridled darter.

Bridled darters, named for markings on their face and back that appear to look like a horse’s bridle and reins, exist only in small portions of five rivers and creeks, including the Conasauga and Etowah rivers, in north Georgia and south Tennessee. The Center first petitioned for them to be protected in 2010; that petition was denied in 2017.

“Over the past 13 years, we could have been working to clean the rivers and streams this little fish depends on, which would have benefited people too,” said Meg Townsend, senior freshwater attorney at the Center. “It’s just incredibly frustrating. I wish the Biden administration would pay attention to the extinction crisis and reform the badly broken U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Earlier this year the agency agreed to reconsider protecting the Barrens darter — another rare fish wrongly denied protection.

Bridled darters face serious threats. Already isolated by dams, up to half of the known populations are expected to disappear due to urbanization and climate change. Remaining populations will be forced into a handful of isolated streams, putting them at even greater risk of extinction.

After protection was denied, a population once believed to be bridled darters has been reclassified as an entirely new species, the Etowah bridled darter, which means that there are even fewer bridled darters than previously believed.

“The bridled darter is disappearing quickly and should never have been denied protection,” said Townsend. “Too often the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denies protection to species who are clearly imperiled. We won’t let the agency stand by and watch this little fish swim off the edge.”

RSBridled darter_Bernie Kuhajda-Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute
Bridled darter photo by Bernie Kuhajda, Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute. 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.

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