EDITOR’S NOTE: A lawsuit only tells one side of a story.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — An Arizona biological center filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, March 7, against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for allegedly failing to decide whether to list Utah’s least chub and Nevada’s Fish Lake Valley tui chub under the Endangered Species Act.
This comes after the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue last November, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service missed the deadline in September 2022 to decide whether they should list the least chub under the ESA.
“These small fishes are an incredibly important part of the Great Basin’s natural heritage, and they’re teetering on the brink of extinction,” said Krista Kemppinen, a senior scientist at the Center. “The longer the Service waits to protect these fishes the greater the chance that they’ll disappear forever. We’re in the midst of an extinction crisis and these little minnows are running out of time.”
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are two ways to have a species listed under the ESA: One, it can be done through a petition filed by a person and organization; Two, officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can voluntarily initiate a status review of the species.
The lawsuit filed today claims that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not deliver a 90-day finding on the petition to list the least chub as endangered or threatened. The Center reportedly has been urging for more protections for the least chub and the Fish Lake Valley tui chub since 2021.
The least chub is a gold-colored minnow, typically less than 2.5 inches long, that is native to Utah’s Bonneville Basin.
Representatives of the Center say the least chub are threatened by proposed groundwater pumping to support Cedar City. The Pine Valley Water Supply Project would pump billions of gallons of groundwater from Utah’s west desert, which the Center says threatens the springs the chub depends on.
“The least chub is in the crosshairs of the Pine Valley Water Supply Project,” Center for Biological Diversity Senior Scientist Krista Kemppinen said. “If this desperately imperiled fish doesn’t get federal protections, the repercussions could be catastrophic.”
The lawsuit also seeks to prompt protections for 10 other plants and animals, including slickspot peppergrass, alligator snapping turtle, Pearl River map turtle, Big Creek crayfish among others.