U.S. Water News Online
LUBBCOCK, Texas -- It appeared that the controversy
surrounding the possible designation of the Arkansas River shiner
(Notropis girardi) as an endangered species had ended in
November 1998 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
published a final rule listing the Arkansas River basin population of
the small minnow as a threatened species under the Endangered Species
Act of 1973. They agreed to and began developing a recovery plan.
However, the USFWS now believes there may be some benefit to
designation of critical habitat for the Arkansas River shiner.
According to USFWS field supervisor Jerry Brabander, a critical
habitat designation benefits species conservation primarily by
"identifying important areas and by describing the features within
those areas that are essential to conservation of the species, thus
alerting public and private entities to the area's importance."
The USFWS plans to propose critical habitat for the shiner in
Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. These areas will likely
include portions of the Arkansas River in Kansas, the Cimarron River
in Kansas and Oklahoma, the Beaver/North Canadian River in Oklahoma,
and the Canadian/South Canadian River in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and
Texas. The proposed designation may also include some segments
outside the geographical area currently occupied by the shiner if
they are determined to be essential for conservation of the species.
Requests for formal comments will be made following publication of
the proposal in the Federal Register. The USFWS plans to conduct
public hearings in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to consider economic
and other impacts of specifying any particular area as critical
habitat for the Arkansas River shiner.
"Once again, we plan to voice our comments to the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service regarding their proposed critical habitat plan for
the Arkansas River shiner," said A. Wayne Wyatt, manager of the High
Plains Underground Water Conservation District in Lubbock.
"When a critical habitat is designated, all the direct or indirect
activities that might affect the environment of the species come
under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Our concern
in 1995 was that the USFWS believed pumping groundwater from the
Ogallala Aquifer in excess of the natural recharge rate reduced
spring flows that contribute to the flow of water in the Canadian
River and therefore, impacted shiner population. This is not the
case," said Wyatt.
"It is not known at this time what they plan to include in their
critical habitat designation. We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service
has reviewed the data that the High Plains Water District and others
submitted at earlier hearings and will not propose anything that will
disrupt the region's economy. Their earlier proposal to reduce
groundwater pumpage to equal natural recharge would have been
disastrous to the region," said Wyatt.
"Once again, we will offer testimony to the USFWS stating our
position on the proposed critical habitat designation for Arkansas
River shiner in the Canadian River. We will oppose any limitations on
the use of our surface and groundwater resources," said Wyatt.
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