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Rim streams critical for tiny endangered native fish

Decade of dispute prompts protection of 710 miles of streams for loach minnow, spikedace

After a flood of legal challenges, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared two, tiny native fish endangered and listed some 710 miles of stream as critical habitat — including 84 miles Rim Country. The critical habitat designation means federal agencies will have to consider whether their actions or approvals might harm the tiny spikedace or loach minnow in Tonto Creek, Fossil Creek, Rye Creek, Spring Creek, Rock Creek, Greenback Creek and the Verde River. Drought, water diversions, cattle grazing, non-native predatory fish and gradual climate change have nearly wiped out the once widespread, three-inch-long fishes, which live in small, shallow, swift-running streams that have stretches of clear gravel in which they can lay their eggs. The fish have vanished from 90 percent of their range in Arizona and New Mexico. “Federal recognition of the precarious status of these two fish species should raise a general alarm — we need to take emergency action to protect Southwest rivers and streams,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These two fishes aren’t an isolated example; there’s an extinction crisis across the board in southwestern rivers. Habitat destruction and invasive species are putting nearly all the native fish, frog and other aquatic species at risk.”


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