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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to downgrade ‘endangered’ protection status of western Kentucky fish

Bec Feldhaus Adams

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to downgrade the protection designation of a western Kentucky fish from “endangered” to “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, citing conservation work that has benefited the species.

The relict darter is a species native to the Bayou De Chien stream system located on the Mississippi floodplain in far western Kentucky. The fish – also known by its scientific name Etheostoma chienense – was listed as endangered in 1993 as a result from habitat deterioration, water pollution and poor land management. The manipulation of waterways and drainage of natural wetlands has negatively affected the species in recent years.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service release states the federal agency has worked with its partners and private landowners providing financial and technological assistance, and that conservation efforts – in particular from the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program – have benefited the fish population.

“Despite the challenges that the species has faced over the decades, concerted conservation efforts inspired by the ESA have paid off,” said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, regional director for the agency, in a statement.

The release also states the proposal to downgrade the designation includes a rule which would – in a targeted way – protect the dart as a “threatened” species. The rule would reduce some regulations and conflicts between various groups and the ESA, allowing some activities to continue “that may benefit or not significantly harm the darter, while focusing efforts on the threats that slow the species’ recovery.”

Such are carried out by the ESA to protect species that are listed as threatened, and the rule prohibits any activity that results in the harassment, harm, pursuit, killing, entrapment, or collection of any threatened species. These illegal activities are also known as “takes.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made a draft recovery plan and a species status assessment report available for review and comments. The public can submit comments on the proposal until May 2.

Mason Galemore is a Murray State student studying journalism. He was the editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper. Since then has explored different publication avenues such as broadcasting. He hopes to travel as a journalist documenting conflict zones and different cultures. He remembers watching the Arab Spring in 2011 via the news when he was a kid, which dawned in a new age of journalism grounded in social media. His favorite hobbies are hiking, photography, reading, writing and playing with his Australian Shepard, Izzy. He is originally from Charleston, Missouri.
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