In July, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that the diamond darter be protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal includes the designation of of 123 river miles as critical habitat in West Virginia and Kentucky.
Diamond darters were once be found along the southern Appalachians from Ohio to Tennessee, but years of changes from dams and channeling restricted this native fish to one stream along the Elk River in West Virginia. Fewer than 50 diamond darters have been collected in the river during the last 30 years.
“The protection of the diamond darter under the Endangered Species Act would help keep the extraordinary abundance of native life flowing through West Virginia’s Elk River,” said Deb Carter, the Service’s West Virginia Field Office supervisor. “The river is one of the state’s most ecologically diverse, but its waters face pervasive threats from coal mining, oil and gas development, erosion, timber harvesting and poor wastewater treatment.”
Darters play an important role in waterway systems as indicators of good water quality and diversity. Their presence indicates that the river is healthy and would sustain other populations of fish, such as musky or bass.
To determine if the diamond darter requires ESA protection, the Service evaluated five factors, including effects to the species’ habitat or range, overuse of the species, disease or predation, inadequate regulatory protection and other natural or manmade factors. According to USFWS, the darter is most threatened by the destruction, change or limitation of its habitat.
Following the evaluation, USFWS submitted a proposal to designate occupied critical habitat in Kanawha and Clay counties, West Virginia, and unoccupied critical habitat in Edmonson, Hart and Green counties, Kentucky.
The Service invites public comment on the proposal through September 24. The Service will consider all comments prior to publishing a final determination.
Comments may be submitted through the following methods:
Federal Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting information on docket number FWS–R5–ES–2012–0045.
U.S. mail or hand-delivery:
Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R5–ES–2012–0045
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222
Arlington, Virginia 22203.
source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service