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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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

December 15, 1998

Vernon Tabor 785-539-3474, x 17
Sharon Rose 303-236-7917, x 415


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated the Topeka shiner, a once common Midwestern fish now found only in a few scattered tributaries, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

"The Topeka shiner has declined by 80 percent across its range, with much of the loss occurring in the past 25 years," said Ralph Morgenweck, the Service’s regional director for the Rocky Mountain region. "The species now needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act if it is going to survive and recover."

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 become geographically isolated, eliminating the possibility for genetic transfer between populations.

"There has been concern about the status of the Topeka shiner for several years," 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."

Previously, the Topeka shiner was classified as a candidate species (a species for which the Service possesses substantial information supporting a proposal to list), under which there is no protection for the species or its habitat. Following a 12-month period of extensive review of all available scientific and commercial information about the fish, and a series of public hearings, the Service today issued a final rule declaring the fish an endangered species. The Service published the decision in today’s Federal Register.

A species is deemed to be endangered if it is in danger of becoming extinct in the foreseeable future. Listing under the Endangered Species Act protects the Topeka shiner from direct taking, including harassing, harming, wounding, killing or collecting. Federal agencies that fund, authorize or otherwise permit activities that may affect the shiner must consult with the Service on the impact on the species.

The Service does not expect the addition of the Topeka shiner to the endangered species list to affect the regular practices of most farmers, ranchers and businesses.

"Landowners who are taking care of the land and the water quality in their streams, those who are being good neighbors to their downstream neighbors, are already helping save the fish," Morgenweck said. "This designation should have no effect on their operations."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife 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 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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