For Immediate Release
June 22, 1999

Contact: Vicki McCoy
404/679-7287

PUBLIC INVITED TO HEARING ON PROPOSED
LISTING OF ALABAMA STURGEON

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has scheduled a hearing on the proposal to add the Alabama sturgeon, a freshwater fish that once inhabited extensive portions of the Mobile River System, to the Federal list of endangered species. The hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 24, 1999, at the Montgomery, Alabama Civic Center.

The fish once inhabited some 1,000 miles of the Mobile River System, including the Black Warrior, Tombigbee, Alabama, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Mobile, Tensaw and Cahaba rivers in Alabama and stretches of the Tombigbee River in Mississippi. It has disappeared from approximately 85 percent of its historic range in the two states. Since 1985, all confirmed captures have been restricted to a short, free-flowing reach of the Alabama River below Millers Ferry and Claiborne locks and dams in Clarke, Monroe and Wilcox counties, Alabama.

During the past 2 years, the Service has worked with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Alabama-Tombigbee Rivers Coalition, a group of private businesses and industries with economic interests in these rivers, and other partners to begin conservation efforts to increase the numbers of the Alabama sturgeon. Because of the research accomplished through the cooperative efforts put forward by these organizations, the Service does not anticipate that the protection of the Alabama sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act is likely to have any effect on current dredging activities on the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers.

The Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have examined river activities and potential conflicts that might arise from a listing of the Alabama sturgeon. This study has resulted in a joint determination by the Service and the Corps that current activities in the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, including the annual navigation channel maintenance dredging programs, will have no impact on the sturgeon and will not need to be eliminated, modified or altered should the species be listed.

The Service's proposal to list the Alabama sturgeon was published in the Federal Register On March 26, 1999. This action has put into motion a thorough review of the status of the Alabama sturgeon, during which the agency will determine whether or not endangered status is appropriate. After considering comments received from the public, including those voiced during a June 24, 1999, public hearing the Service will make a final determination on the proposal in a year's time.

If the Service determines that endangered status is appropriate for the Alabama sturgeon, the species will benefit from those protections and recovery actions assured under the Act. Species listed as endangered are protected from direct and indirect "take," which includes killing, harming or harassing. Federal agencies whose actions may affect the species must consult with the Service to ensure their activities do not further endanger the species. In addition, the Service would develop a recovery plan to formalize ongoing conservation efforts to and identify and implement other actions to restore populations to a level when extinction would no longer be a threat.

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 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 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 wildlife agencies.

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Release #:R99-053

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