The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected 122 miles of river habitat for the diamond darter, a small, sparkly fish that has been wiped out from the vast majority of its range by dams and water pollution. The darter was protected under the Endangered Species Act last month as part of an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity under which the Service must speed protection decisions for 757 imperiled species. Its “critical habitat” designation includes 28 miles of occupied habitat in the lower Elk River in Kanawha and Clay counties in West Virginia and 95 miles of historical habitat in the Green River in Edmonson, Green and Hart counties in Kentucky.
“Fish and people both need clean water. Protecting the diamond darter’s habitat will help make sure these rivers stay healthy for future generations,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center.
Critical habitat designation requires federal agencies to consult with the Service to ensure that federally funded or permitted activities will not harm darters or their habitat.
Once found in five states, the diamond darter is now so rare that it was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the Elk River in West Virginia in 1980. Fewer than 125 of the fish have been seen over the past 30 years.
Water pollution, small population size and population isolation are the main factors endangering the fish; the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has identified coal mining, oil and gas development, erosion, timber harvesting and poor wastewater treatment as threats to water quality in the Elk River watershed. More....