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Richard Morat, 916/414-6571
Miriam Morrill, 916/414-6569

Service Removes Sacramento Splittail from List of Threatened Species

 After five public-comment periods and an exhaustive scientific review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today published a “notice of removal” determination to remove the splittail from the list of threatened and endangered species. The Service analyzed Sacramento splittail population information, as well as the threats to the species. It found that threats to the species are being addressed through habitat restoration actions such as the CALFED Bay-Delta Program and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, and that as a result, the splittail is not likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.
 
 “We applaud the continued effort of state and Federal agencies to improve conditions for all fish and wildlife in the Central Valley and Delta,” said Steve Thompson, manager of the Service’s California-Nevada Operations Office.

 Thompson said the Service will continue to monitor the health of the Sacramento splittail.
  This shows that CALFED is working, said Robert C. Hight, director of the California Department of Fish and Game. It also underscores continued commitment to work with all our public and private partners in the Central Valley and the Delta to improve conditions for wildlife.
 
 The Sacramento splittail is a native fish of California’s Central Valley. The Service listed the Sacramento splittail as threatened in 1999, citing changes in water flows and water quality, drought, loss of habitat and the effects of agricultural and industrial pollutants. Under the Endangered Species Act, a species is threatened when it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

 The State Water Contractors, the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and others challenged the listing, contending that it violated the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedures Act. On June 23, 2000, the U.S. District Court in Fresno ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and found the listing unlawful. The Court sent the issue back to the Service for further consideration but kept the species’ protections in place during the review.

 Since January 2001, the Service has conducted five public-comment periods seeking information on the factors affecting the Sacramento splittail.

 Sacramento splittail populations are affected by the loss of spawning and rearing habitat. However, it appears that the splittail is benefitting from habitat-restoration and water-management actions that are underway to benefit Central Valley fish, including several federally protected species. The principal spawning areas of splittail – the Yolo Bypass and the Cosumnes River – are largely protected and being further enhanced and restored.

 More information on today’s action, including the Federal Register notice and photos, are available at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Service’s Web page at http://sacramento.fws.gov.

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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