Federal wildlife officials are recommending the Topeka shiner be removed from the list of endangered species after successful conservation projects gave the fish a “brighter and more sustainable future,” they announced Thursday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released findings from a five-year review and recommended the fish be listed as threatened rather than endangered. The agency also issued a recovery plan to keep working on building the fish’s population.
Matt Hogan, acting regional director for USFWS, thanked state agencies across the Midwest for working with federal officials to save the fish.
“We are excited to say the recovery actions by conservation partners have led to the recommendation to reclassify the species to threatened status,” Hogan said.
The Topeka shriner is a type of minnow that was once common across the Great Plains. It’s about three inches long with silvery scales and a dark stripe along its side. The fish primarily resides in small prairie streams and off-channel pools and wetlands, but it has lost habitat, primarily to agriculture. When it was listed as endangered in 1998, researchers believed the fish’s range had dropped by as much as 80%.
Since that time, conservation efforts have helped move the fish from endangered to threatened, but it still faces threats, particularly at the southern end of its range in Kansas and Missouri. Its population loss has been especially severe in Kansas and Missouri, the southern end of its range, but it has fared better in the northern Great Plains.
According to the agency’s five-year review, a major issue facing the fish is the fragmentation of wetlands by dams, low-water crossings, culverts, bridges and channelization. The fish also faces depletion of water resources in its range.
“The currently highly modified agricultural landscape both demands water and sends it through the system at significantly increase rate; a water cycle that once took 500 years to complete may now take less than 30 as wetlands are drained, streams are channelized, fields are tilled and aquifers are depleted,” the report says.
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