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Wildlife Service Reviews Survival Status of Klamath Fish


WASHINGTON, DC, July 26, 2004 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced it will continue protecting the Lost River sucker and shortnose sucker under the Endangered Species Act as it reviews the condition of the two fish species.

The two fish are endemic to the Upper Klamath Basin - an area that has been the subject of heated disputes over water use.

Both species live in lakes and reservoirs most of the year and migrate upstream in the spring to spawn.

In 2001, the Fish and Wildlife Service diverted water from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Irrigation Project in order to protect endangered suckers.

The decision prompted angry protests by local farmers.

The Bush administration decided in 2002 not to enforce the plan, a move that appeased the farmers, but drew sharp criticism from environmentalists and tribal groups.

Both suckers were listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act in 1988 - overfishing, habitat loss and poor water quality are blamed for the decline.

The Lost River sucker can reach 39 inches long and can live at least 45 years; the shortnose sucker can reach 20 inches in length and live as long as 33 years.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's decision included the rejection of a petition from private property owners to remove the two species from the endangered species list.

The agency said the petition does not provide substantial new information to warrant delisting.

The study, known as a five year review under the Endangered Species Act, will be a valuable management activity, according to agency officials, and will help them to understand more precisely the condition of the two species and determine what is needed to assure their recovery.

"Populations of the Klamath suckers declined significantly in the last decade. But potentially important restoration measures are under way that create optimism that the Klamath suckers can be restored to good health," said Steve Thompson, manager of the Service's California/Nevada Operations Office.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is a cooperative partner in federally funded efforts to improve the status of the two species while maintaining the other important community interests throughout the Basin.

Thompson said the agency is "is determined to restore the Klamath sucker population to a viable condition, while meeting the needs of the tribes that rely on the sucker for important cultural benefits and on the local economy."





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