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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the peppered chub as endangered

February 28, 2022
Joe Bushyhead, WildEarth Guardians, 505-660-0284, jbushyhead@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Rivers, Wildlife   Peppered chub
SANTA FE, NM—Almost fifteen years after WildEarth Guardians petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the peppered chub—a small freshwater fish once found throughout the Arkansas River basin in New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas—the agency has finally designated the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As part of its decision, the Service is also designating 872 miles of river as critical habitat for the species.

“The peppered chub, like many aquatic fish species, are drastically declining due to unsustainable use of western rivers and climate change,” said Jen Pelz, Wild Rivers Program Director at WildEarth Guardians. “In order to turn the tides away from extinction, fundamental reform of western water policy is necessary and bold steps must be taken toward creating more climate resiliency for river ecosystems.”

Peppered chub have declined drastically due to dams, which fragment habitat, alter seasonal patterns of water flow, and change streambeds. Other factors include pollution (particularly from agriculture) and predation by nonnative fish such as smallmouth and largemouth bass.

Once common to prairie streams and rivers, peppered chub now occupy just six percent of their historic range—a section of the South Canadian River between Ute Reservoir in New Mexico and Lake Meredith in Texas.

“We’re grateful the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has protected the peppered chub, which has been decimated by dams and degraded water quality,” said Joe Bushyhead, endangered species policy advocate with WildEarth Guardians. “But the chub, like many other imperiled species still awaiting ESA listing, needed protection much sooner.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for listing many species of plants and animals under the ESA, has long lacked sufficient funding to list all species needing ESA protection. Nearly fifty species have gone extinct while awaiting ESA listing due to underfunding.

In an effort to speed listing decisions, WildEarth Guardians, in coalition with other environmental groups, is advocating for at least a $13.6 million annual increase for the agency’s listing budget in the upcoming congressional appropriations process. This is the minimum necessary to process the backlog of 430 species currently awaiting protection.

Peppered chub. Photo by Daniel Fenner/USFWS.

Other Contact
Jen Pelz, WildEarth Guardians, 303-884-2702, jpelz@wildearthguardians.org