[LAR] FW: article on Santa Ana sucker
> Tuesday, September 1, 1998____________________________________________________________________
> Environmentalists Step Up Efforts to Protect a Fish
> Wildlife: Nature group has sued U.S. officials to get the Santa Ana sucker
> moved up onto endangered list.
> By DEBORAH SCHOCH, Times Staff Writer
> To naturalists, the small fish called the Santa Ana sucker is a living
> of the days when real rivers ran through the Los Angeles Basin.
> But today, long stretches of those rivers are encased in concrete,
> the surrounding willows have been crowded out by condominiums and
> The sucker has been pushed inland to scattered outposts, its population
> dramatically reduced.
> Now its survival may depend on a legal battle waged by fish advocates
> hope to win the sucker protection under the Endangered Species Act.
> The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking a new look at whether to
> grant that protection, which environmentalists have sought since 1994. No
> decision has been reached, but the fish's defenders hope their lawsuit
> force the hand of federal officials soon.
> "Unfortunately, the only way to get their attention is to sue," said
> C. Swift, a fish biologist and outgoing president of the regional chapter
> the American Fisheries Society, a group of scientists that helped bring
> last year on behalf of the beleaguered sucker.
> What riles environmentalists the most is that federal experts
> acknowledged in 1997 that the fish's dwindling numbers should earn it
> protection--but that more than 100 other species of West Coast wildlife
> had a
> higher priority for listing. The service has a major backlog of plants and
> animals that are candidates for endangered species consideration. But with
> limited staff, the agency is unable to do the research needed to determine
> whether they warrant protection.
> "They said we're once again shuffling this to the bottom of their
> They're saying there are other species that are facing larger threats or
> imminent threats," said Claudia Polsky, an attorney at Earthjustice Legal
> Defense Fund, an environmental law firm. The fund is defending the sucker
> behalf of the Fisheries Society's California-Nevada chapter and California
> Trout, a fish conservation group.
> She compared the sucker's treatment to a hospital's leaving a patient
> bleeding in a waiting room. "The issue," she said, "is that the agency has
> conducted its triage improperly."
> But federal officials concluded last year that the fish was less
> endangered than some other plants and animals, especially since a number
> the fish live on federal land in the Angeles National Forest.
> "Urban development is not as serious a threat to these populations,
> the service has concluded that the species will not face extinction if
> recovery is temporarily postponed while listings of higher-priority
> occur," service officials said then.
> The Santa Ana sucker is an unlikely icon for wildlife activists. It
> the notoriety of the northwest salmon, the glamour of rare wolves and
> Its name is more likely to inspire jokes than public sympathy.
> The freshwater fish was considered common as recently as the 1970s,
> federal records show. But today it is found only in four main spots in
> Southern California, driven inland by concrete river channels, dams and
> "The habitat has been totally wiped out for most sections of the
> streams," said John Nuss, a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist. "Where
> habitat is destroyed, the fish isn't there."
> Today, the sucker's stronghold is the headwaters of the San Gabriel
> in and near the Angeles National Forest. It still lives in some sections
> its namesake, the Santa Ana River, from Riverside downstream to the Yorba
> Linda area of Orange County. More of the splotched, silvery fish can be
> along lower Big Tujunga Creek in the Tujunga area, as well as farther
> north in
> the Santa Clara River.
> The case is expected to be heard by a federal district court judge in
> Francisco late this year or in early 1999.
> * * *
> Santa Ana Sucker (Catostomus santannae)
> * Description: Small to medium in size, with large, thick lips and
> mouth used to vacuum algae and invertebrates from riverbeds and streams.
> * Lifespan: Two to three years.
> * Preferred habitat: Clear, cool rocky pools and creeks; small to
> * Historic range: Once common in Los Angeles, San Gabriel and Santa
> River drainages and in small, shallow freshwater streams.
> * Current range: Headwaters of San Gabriel River system, Big Tujunga
> Creek in the Los Angeles River Basin, portions of the Santa Ana River, and
> parts of the Santa Clara River system in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
> * Decline caused by: Water diversions, dams, extreme alterations of
> stream channels, erosion, debris, torrents, pollution, heavy recreational
> of waterways. Also, nonnative species that prey on suckers and compete for
> Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
> Copyright 1998 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved
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