Last month, the conservationist group Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice with the intention to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in regards to the Fish Lake Valley tui chub that resides near the California-Nevada line. The lawsuit is due to the Service’s failure to formally list and protect the Fish Lake Valley tui chub under the Endangered Species Act. The group is also suing the Service on behalf of another endangered species called the least chub which resides in Utah. In a press release, the center states that this follows a petition that sought for protection of the fish back in March of 2021. The Service had until this September to make a decision but it missed this legal deadline.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Fish Lake Valley tui chub once lived in several locations in Fish Lake Valley in Esmeralda County, Nevada. This area had an extensive groundwater-dependent ecosystem fed by snowmelt from the nearby White Mountains. But due to colonization and the overuse of groundwater pumping, the species now survives only in a single isolated spring that is now under threat of drought. This is concerning to the Center as Nevada is considered to be the driest state in the country with a decreasing amount of precipitation in recent years due to climate change.
Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center stated: “The Fish Lake Valley tui chub is staring extinction in the face because of the catastrophic overuse of groundwater in its native range. This lawsuit is a last-ditch effort to save this unique fish from disappearing forever.” Back in August this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in response did publish their initial review that indicated the Fish Lake Valley tui chub may qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act, a move the Center was pleased to hear in their press release responding to the news. But now that the deadline has passed, the conservationist group and the Service will have to settle this matter in court.
The Associated Press reached out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about this recent development but were told via email by Service spokesperson Laury Marshall that the agency does not comment on litigations. It remains to be seen how these lawsuits will affect the aquatic species and people who live in these western states that are facing massive drought and water shortage issues.