Endangered species - US says 29 species may need federal protection
Twenty-nine species in more than 20 American states, from a rare beach-dwelling plant in Yellowstone National Park to a caddisfly in Nebraska, may need federal protections to avoid extinction, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The agency said Tuesday that 20 plants, six snails, two insects and a fish may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act but in-depth studies are needed first.
The decision is a response to a 2007 petition by WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group that sought protections for more than 200 species, most of them in the West.
In February, the agency turned down protections for 165 plants and animals and delayed a decision on the remaining 38.
Among the 29 that federal officials said may need protection are the Yellowstone sand verbena, which only lives on the sandy beaches of Yellowstone Lake, several species of milkvetch in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, and a Midwestern mollusk called the Frigid ambersnail.
Fourteen of the 29 appear in Utah, including 10 plant species and a small silvery minnow called the Northern leatherside chub.
According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources the leatherside chub, Gila copei, is a small minnow native to streams and rivers of the southeastern portion of the Bonneville Basin. It was once common throughout its native range, but presently is listed as a state sensitive species due to substantial decreases in population levels.
Leatherside chub live up to 8 years, and adults reach a maximum length of 150 mm.
The body is bluish above and silvery below, and males have bright orange-red coloration on the axils of the paired fins.
The skin has a leathery texture with very small scales (75-85 in the lateral line) and the anal and dorsal fins have 8 fin rays, which distinguish this species from other Utah minnows.
Conservation measures to insure the continued persistence of this small fish include regulations that prohibit collection and increased funding for research.
Recent genetic studies suggest that what has been considered the leatherside chub may actually be two distinct species, the northern leatherside chub, Lepidomeda copei, and the southern leatherside chub, Lepidomeda aliciae.
Diane Katzenberger, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman in Denver, said each of the species will now get a detailed review, including identification of its range, distribution and threats.
Federal officials will then decide whether each needs to be protected as a threatened or endangered species.
Nicole Rosmarino, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, said she's pleased with the decision but more needs to be done to protect other species deemed threatened by scientists.
``To catch up with the biodiversity crisis in the U.S., the service needs to be listing dozens of species at once,'' she said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service defines an endangered species as one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A threatened species is one that is likely to become endangered soon.
The agency said several of the 29 species being considered for protection could be affected by climate change, including the meltwater lednian stonefly that's only been found in Montana's Glacier National Park. The loss of glaciers in the park by 2030 as predicted by some scientists could jeopardize the fly's habitat, the agency said.
Other species face threats from habitat loss, road construction, mining, livestock, energy development, off-road vehicles and water diversions, the agency said.
Nine species were denied the possibility of federal protections because there wasn't sufficient information in the petitions.