DOINews: BLM-Utah: Bureau of Land Management Helped in Big Effort That Protected Tiny Fish

Last edited 09/05/2019

For many years, the Bureau of Land Management has worked with people in Utah to keep the least chub off of the government's endangered species list. Those efforts recently paid off when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a decision to remove the tiny, ancient fish from the Candidate Species List. The BLM's participation was notable because three of five naturally occurring populations of the fish are on BLM-managed public lands.

Dozens of small,silver least chub fish viewed through a plastic bag filled with water

Least chub are temporarily suspended above their habitat in Utah. Photo by BLM.

"Once again, our BLM employees have proven to be invaluable team members in the protection of rangeland resources," said BLM Director Neil Kornze. "I congratulate all those who worked on this effort. While this decision is good news, we are also mindful of our continuing commitment to ensuring the protection and conservation of species, including the least chub, is a part of the BLM legacy."

BLM fish biologist Justin Jimenez (left) and BLM Utah State Director Juan Palma (right) shaking sitting at a table and shaking hands.

BLM Utah Fisheries and Riparian Program Lead Justin Jimenez (left) and BLM Utah State Director Juan Palma (right) lead the BLM's conservation efforts for least chub. Photo by BLM.

The least chub first lived in Lake Bonneville, the largest of many lakes in Utah and Nevada created by the cooler and wetter climate of the last Ice Age, between 28,000 and 7,000 years ago. At its largest extent, Lake Bonneville was nearly 325 miles long, 135 miles wide and more than 1,000 feet deep. But as the lake drained and shrank, the tiny fish, which grows to just over 2-inches long, occupied smaller bodies of water scattered across the Bonneville Basin.

Outdoor photo of spring where least chubs live.

This photo shows least chub wild population habitat on public land. Photo by BLM.

In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled that the least chub deserved protection under the Endangered Species Act, but delayed further action because other species required attention first.

In response, the Least Chub Conservation Team, which included the BLM, worked to develop strategies to conserve and protect the fish. As part of the effort, the BLM partnered with the State of Utah, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private landowners to introduce least chub to various sites around the state. The agency also provided financial and personnel support, with some money from BLM Utah's Recovery Fund Initiative. With this support, the team managed and protected existing Least Chub populations and their habitats. The team also introduced 10 new least chub populations around the state, half of them within BLM-managed public lands.

On August 26, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew least chub from the candidate list and concluded that conservation efforts have reduced or eliminated current and future threats to the fish to the point that the species is not in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future.

"This is great news for everyone who was involved in this species conservation effort," said Justin Jimenez, BLM Utah Fisheries/Riparian Program lead. "This effort shows that partnerships and cooperative efforts can produce desirable results for the species and the people involved."

Outdoor photo of spring where least chub have been reintroduced.
This photo shows habitat for an introduced population of least chub at BLM-managed Keg Springs. Photo by BLM.

"What a great example of success through interagency partnership," said BLM Utah State Director Juan Palma, who signed the amended Least Chub Conservation Agreement and Strategy, which was part of the conservation efforts that the Fish and Wildlife Service credited in its conclusion. "The West Desert District is to be specifically acknowledged for their efforts to manage and enhance these habitats. Keep up the great work!"

By: Derrick Henry, BLM Washington Office

Sept. 15, 2014

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