DENVER— The Trump administration proposed today to downlist the humpback chub from endangered to threatened, despite the fact the species has not met the criteria in its recovery plan. The fish, which is found only in Colorado, Utah and Arizona, faces severe threats from drought related to climate change and overuse of water, as well as from invasive species like smallmouth bass.
“The humpback chub remains very much endangered,” said Taylor McKinnon at the Center for Biological Diversity. “One of the six remaining populations was recently lost, and the remaining fish face multiple threats, from climate change to new dams. This is a disturbing attack on an endangered species by the Trump administration, which has been systematically removing protections from our waters and wildlife.”
When the recovery plan was last revised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2002, the humpback chub had six populations, five in the upper Colorado Basin and one in the lower Colorado Basin. One of the populations, found in Dinosaur National Monument, has since died out.
The other upper Basin populations declined in the early 2000s, but have since stabilized at lower population sizes that are considered below the minimum viability requirements established by the plan. Only the lower Basin population meets such criteria, but it is found primarily in the Little Colorado River, which is now threatened by two proposed dams that would harm or destroy all of the fish’s critical habitat there.
“Humpback chub are hanging on by a thread, but somehow the Trump administration is arguing they’ve recovered, which makes no sense,” McKinnon said.
None of the projections in the downlisting rule foresees a bright future for the fish. Its survival is highly dependent on voluntary management actions that may or may not be successful. As with other recent species-protection decisions, the Trump administration downplayed the effects of climate change by only looking 40 years into the future, despite the fact that climate models extend to 2100 and paint a grim picture of water availability in the Colorado River.
“These fish will fall victim to the Trump administration’s determination to ignore climate change’s huge threats if we don’t immediately get emissions under control,” McKinnon said. “Climate change is drying the Colorado River. This is the wrong time to reduce protections for fish like the humpback chub.”