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710 Miles of Critical Habitat Protected for Two Endangered Fish
In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Feb. 22 finalized designation of 710 river miles of protected critical habitat for the spikedace and loach minnow—two southwestern fish that have been eliminated from more than 80 percent of their historic ranges in Arizona and New Mexico. The agency also uplisted the two fish from “threatened” to “endangered”—a government acknowledgment that they both need, and will receive, more federal protection. The fish, whose populations are declining, are being driven toward extinction by habitat loss and the spread of invasive species.
“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. “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.”
The Center petitioned to have the spikedace and loach minnow uplisted to endangered in 1993. At that time, the Fish and Wildlife Service found the species “warranted” a change in status, but deemed the change “precluded” by listing of other species. Following litigation by Catron County and the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association against previous designations of critical habitat, the Bush administration protected just 522 river miles in 2005. The Center challenged this designation, resulting in the Feb. 22 designation of 710 river miles, including portions of the Verde, Blue, Black, San Francisco and Gila rivers and Eagle, Bonita, Aravaipa and Tonto creeks.
“Saving endangered species means protecting the places they live,” said Greenwald. “Critical habitat will let these two small fish survive, yes, but it’ll also benefit the people of the Southwest, who will still have the chance to see living rivers.”
A number of areas were excluded from the critical habitat despite being essential to the fishes’ survival, including portions of the San Pedro, Verde, White and San Francisco rivers and Eagle Creek, based on argued conflicts with national security on Fort Huachuca and management by tribes and the mining company Freeport-McMoRan.
“Even though they’re not officially part of the fishes’ critical habitat, we’re really hoping these rivers will be maintained and recovered—both for spikedace and loach minnows and also for the many other rare species that depend on these waters for survival,” said Greenwald.
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Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.