For Immediate Release, November 25, 2019

Contact:

Ryan Beam, (928) 853-9929, rbeam@biologicaldiversity.org

Utah’s June Sucker Another Endangered Species Act Success, Downlisted From Endangered to Threatened

Once-abundant Fish Benefits From Utah Lake Restoration Efforts

SALT LAKE CITY— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to downlist the June sucker fish from endangered to threatened based on successful recovery efforts. The June sucker is found only in Utah Lake, which was once clear and supported a commercial fishery for the sucker and Utah’s state fish, the Bonneville cutthroat trout.

Following damming of its outflow, damming and diversion of many of its tributaries and massive agricultural and urban development, the lake became a polluted and algae-filled home for invasive carp. Efforts to recover the June sucker have not just improved numbers of this unique fish but have partially restored the lake and the Provo River.

“The successful efforts to recover the June sucker show the Endangered Species Act is working,” said Ryan Beam, a Utah conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This important law benefits not just species like the June sucker, but people who depend on clean water. If this hard work continues, maybe one day Utah Lake will once again shine clear.”

The June sucker was once incredibly abundant and harvested by the tons to be used as fertilizer. By the time it was listed in 1986, the June sucker had declined to fewer than 1,000 individuals with only 350 spawners counted in 1999. Today there are an estimated 3,500 June suckers in Utah Lake due to captive rearing and stocking and habitat improvements, including guaranteed water rights.

The Endangered Species Act has paid big dividends, with a total of 46 species now recovered and delisted, including 22 in the last five years. Like the June sucker, a number of other species have also been downlisted to threatened.

Although the Trump administration has moved forward with delisting several species, it has failed on protecting additional imperiled species. So far Trump officials have listed just 21 species under the Endangered Species Act — the lowest of any administration at this point in its presidential term.

By comparison, during the Obama administration, 360 species were protected under the Endangered Species Act. Under Clinton 523 species were protected, while 232 species were protected under George H.W. Bush, 62 species under George W. Bush, and 254 under Reagan.

In 2016 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a workplan to address a backlog of more than 500 species awaiting protection decisions, but the Trump administration has kept the agency from completing decisions for dozens of species every year. On Nov. 20 the Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the administration for failing to decide whether 274 imperiled animals and plants across the country should be federally protected.

“If we want to have more successes like the June sucker, we have to do more to protect species in the first place,” said Beam.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.