21 years after being listed as endangered, the Oregon chub is thriving
The Oregon chub, a humble species of minnow, is about to become something of a celebrity in the world of wildlife conservation: On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its proposal to remove the chub from the endangered species list, 21 years after its initial inclusion. This marks the first time a fish species has accomplished such a feat.
The change isn’t immediate. The proposal process includes a 60-day public comment period, and if successful the agency will continue to monitor the chub for nine years to ensure continued growth. 21 years ago, the chub all but disappeared from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, as the swamps and ponds it called home were drained to control flooding and create space for farmland. Any remaining specimens became easy pickings for invasive bass species introduced from the east.
“We’re not saying it won’t need management,” Paul Henson, Oregon director of Fish and Wildlife, said in an interview. “But they can leave the hospital and get out to be an outpatient.”
At the time of listing, there were fewer than 8,000 specimens remaining in the wild. Today, than number has exploded to over 150,000. Officials attribute much of that recovery to the combined efforts of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and private landowners to both restore and acquire natural chub habitats.
“The partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was instrumental in Oregon chub recovery efforts,” said Roy Elicker, Director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Their funding of monitoring and restoration activities, combined with the coordination of the safe harbor agreement to protect landowners, are big reasons why we’re celebrating this recovery.”
While the public will have their 60 days to comment and provide additional information, the ultimate decision for removal will be based on scientific and commercial data. Besides the Oregon chub, the recovery is a big win for the Endangered Species Act itself.
“The success we have had with the Oregon chub reinforces that, working together, we can recover species that currently are threatened or endangered” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.