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Imperiled Rio Grande Fish Needs Protection

September 30, 2014
Taylor Jones 720 443-2615
In This Release
Rivers, Wildlife   Rio Grande sucker
#EndangeredSpeciesAct, #ReviveTheRio, #WildlandsForWildlife
Washington, DC—As part of ongoing efforts to protect the iconic Rio Grande and the river’s full compliment of native species, WildEarth Guardians today submitted a scientific petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) requesting protections for the imperiled Rio Grande sucker under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“The Rio Grande sucker is struggling in the beleaguered Rio Grande,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “The dire circumstances of a multitude of native Rio Grande species should be wake-up call to take better care of our river.”

One of three cornerstone native fish, the sucker evolved side-by-side with the Rio Grande chub and Rio Grande cutthroat trout to fill different roles and niches in the Rio Grande ecosystem. All three species are at risk because of dams,diversions, and human land uses, which are altering the once mighty Rio Grande and making it inhospitable for native fish. Climate change is exacerbating the serious threats to the species, including drought. Increased temperatures,increased human demand for water, and decreased spring runoff are all projected throughout the Southwest.

As a result of myriads threats, the Rio Grande sucker population has plummeted from historic numbers. Once common from Colorado to New Mexico, only two small naturally occurring populations of Rio Grande sucker persist in Colorado, and populations in New Mexico continue to decline. Rio Grande suckers need clean, clear water, but heavy sedimentation from roads, livestock grazing, and other human activities have caused sucker populations to crash and deteriorated the health of those that remain. Diversion of water for agriculture reduces stream flows and destroys habitat. Dams and diversions create artificial barriers that fragment populations.

“The Rio Grande sucker and other native Rio Grande fish need the protections of the Endangered Species Act to ensure their survival in the face of severe threats to their river home,” said Jones. “We call on the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect these imperiled species now.”

Protection under the ESA is an effective safety net for imperiled species: more than 99 percent of plants and animals protected by the law exist today. The law is especially important as a defense against the current extinction crisis; plants and animals are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities. Scientists estimate that 227 species would have gone extinct if not for ESA protections.