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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228


For Immediate Release
August 21, 2002

Contacts: Vernon Tabor (KS) 785-539-3474, x110
Wally Jobman (NE) 308-382-6468, x16
Natalie Gates (SD) 605-224-8693, x25
haron Rose 303-236-7917, x415

Service Proposes Designation of Critical Habitat for Topeka Shiner

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to designate critical habitat for the Topeka shiner, a once common midwestern minnow. This proposal includes a total of 186 stream segments in the states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The Service will hold informational meetings in the affected states this summer and early fall and take public comments before finalizing this proposal.

Proposed areas of critical habitat include only those streams currently occupied by the Topeka shiner that contain the physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the species.

Critical habitat, under the Endangered Species Act, refers to geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management considerations or protection. A critical habitat designation does not create a preserve or a refuge, and only applies to situations where Federal funding or a Federal permit is involved. Designation of critical habitat does not affect private landowners undertaking a project on private land that does not involve Federal funding or require a Federal permit or authorization.

"The designation of critical habitat will help focus Federal, Tribal, State, and private management efforts in areas that are important to the conservation of the Topeka shiner," said Ralph Morgenweck, the Service’s Director of the Mountain-Prairie Region. "The Service will make a final decision on the proposed designations only after considering the economic impacts and receiving input from the public."

The Endangered Species Act requires that the Service evaluate the economic impacts of designating critical habitat before finalizing the boundaries. The Service may exclude areas from the critical habitat designation if the economic impacts would be too severe, as long as the exclusion will not lead to the extinction of the species. In the near future, a draft economic analysis and environmental assessment will be made available for public review and comment.

The Topeka shiner was listed as an endangered species in 1998. As a listed species, the Topeka shiner is already protected wherever it occurs and Federal agencies are required to consult on any action they take which might affect the species, regardless of critical habitat designation. Therefore, the Service anticipates that little additional regulatory burden will be placed on Federal agencies as a result of any designation of critical habitat.

Designation of critical habitat for the Topeka shiner contributes to its conservation by helping Federal agencies determine when and where they must consult with the Service before undertaking actions that may destroy or adversely modify the species habitat.

Topeka shiners live in small to mid-size prairie streams in the central United States. These fish inhabit streams, which usually run continually and that have good water quality and cool to moderate temperatures. Occasionally, Topeka shiners have been found in larger streams, downstream of larger populations. They usually live in pools and run areas of streams. In Iowa, Minnesota, and portions of South Dakota, the species also lives in oxbows and off-channel pools. The streams that the Topeka shiner inhabits must have plenty of aquatic or invertebrate food sources, and few competitive non-native species present.

Once common in small prairie streams throughout Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota, the Topeka shiner is now primarily restricted to a few tributaries within the Missouri and Mississippi river basins. The Service attributes the population reduction to a variety of factors including a loss of habitat due to stream sedimentation and decreased water quality.

Biologists also believe activities that remove or damage the natural protective vegetation buffer along streams, including agricultural cropping, urban development and highway construction, may have contributed to the decline. Additionally, construction of dams on streams containing Topeka shiners has eliminated the species from those streams.

Many of the remaining populations of the species have declined sharply in numbers and have become geographically isolated, eliminating the possibility for genetic transfer between populations.

"The Topeka Shiner Recovery Team has been working toward developing a recovery plan for the Topeka shiner which will describe the conservation actions needed to help the species survive and recover," Morgenweck said. "This fish is especially important because it serves as an indicator of the general health of the aquatic ecosystems upon which fish, wildlife and humans alike depend."

Today’s proposal is in response to a lawsuit brought by the Biodiversity Legal Foundation. As a result of that litigation, the Service agreed in a court settlement to propose critical habitat designations for the Topeka shiner by August 13, 2002, and to issue a final rule by August 13, 2003.

The Service will accept written comments from the public for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. Written comments on the Topeka shiner critical habitat proposal should be submitted to the Kansas Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 315 Houston Street, Suite E, Manhattan, Kansas 66502. Comments also may be sent electronically to

Public meetings regarding this critical habitat proposal will be held this summer and early fall. Scheduled meetings are--September 4 - Manhattan, Kansas; September 5 - Bethany, Missouri; September 9 - Fort Dodge, Iowa; September 10 - Pipestone, Minnesota; September 11- Sioux Falls, South Dakota and September 12 - Madison, Nebraska. Exact locations will be announced in local newspapers. All meetings will begin at 6:00 p.m. and end no later than 9:00 p.m.

For more information about the Topeka shiner and the critical habitat proposal, including public meeting locations, please visit the Service’s web site at or call the Service’s office in Manhattan, Kansas, at 785-539-3474, extension 0.

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