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News & Releases
Mountain-Prairie Region

News Release

Service Finds Endangered Species Protection Not Warranted for Virgin Spinedace Fish

Collaborative conservation efforts helped recover species before federal protections needed

For Immediate Release

September 24, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY—Thanks to the conservation efforts of state, local and federal partners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the Virgin spinedace, a fish species found in the Virgin River, does not require Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection.

“Collaborative conservation is the key to long-lasting conservation solutions and this announcement today is an example of what we can do when we work together,” said Matt Hogan, Acting Regional Director for the Service. “Thank you to our diverse partners who support species conservation in the Virgin River.”

 a medium-sized, silvery minnow with irregular dark splotches along its side. The  first two rays of its dorsal fin are hard and mostly separate from the rest of the fin, which gives the spinedace its name.
A Virgin spinedace (Lepidomeda mollispinis mollispinis). Credit: Rick Fridell, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Over the last 26 years, the Virgin spinedace population numbers and range has increased due to the partnerships among Utah, Nevada and Arizona, local partners like the Washington County Water Conservancy District, and federal agencies including the Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management.

The efforts included permanently securing flow agreements to manage water, improving habitat conditions through restoration efforts, managing non-native fish and translocating the spinedace to increase species distribution in suitable streams. Conserving the Virgin spinedace has benefitted countless other species that rely on the Virgin River watershed, including the Southwestern willow flycatcher, Woundfin chub and Virgin River chub.

This finding was informed by a species status assessment (SSA), a focused, repeatable, and rigorous assessment of a species' ability to maintain self-sustaining populations over time. It is based on the best available scientific and commercial information regarding life history, biology, and current and future vulnerabilities. The SSA for the Virgin spinedace was produced with input from many partners and underwent independent peer and partner review.

The Virgin spinedace is a medium-sized silvery, speckled minnow fish species found only in the Virgin River Basin in northern Arizona, southern Nevada and Utah. The spinedace lives in cool, clean waters, waters that are also important to a variety of water users.

To address these conservation challenges in the Virgin River, federal, state, and local partners formed the Virgin River Resource Management and Recovery Program, also known as the Virgin River Program, to protect the spinedace and other species in the Virgin river from these threats.

Ongoing conservation challenges to the Virgin River include water availability, impeded fish passage, elevated water temperatures, and non-native fish predation and competition have the potential to affect some populations of Virgin spinedace. The Service and its partners are committed to continuing our work together to conserve the spinedace and its habitat.

This finding is now available for public review in the Federal Register.

More information about the Virgin spinedace is available on ECOS, and you can learn more about the Virgin River Program here.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen in the West, visit our website, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Instagram.

– FWS –

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Office of External Affairs

Mountain-Prairie Region

134 Union Blvd

Lakewood, CO 80228


303-236-3815 FAX



Joe Szuszwalak

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: September 27, 2021
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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