GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - A tiny minnow that lives only in Oregon backwaters is set to become the first fish ever taken off U.S. Endangered Species Act protection because it is no longer threatened with extinction.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that it was proposing that the Oregon chub was recovered, 21 years after it went on the endangered species list. The proposal will go through a 60-day public comment period before becoming final. The agency will monitor the fish for nine years to make sure populations continue to grow.
"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."
Robyn Thorson, northwest regional director of Fish and Wildlife, made the announcement at a 92-acre property along the McKenzie River outside Springfield. The property is owned by the McKenzie River Trust that combines a working farm with habitat protection and restoration.
The fish had practically disappeared from Oregon's Willamette Valley as the swampy backwaters and beaver ponds it depends on were drained to control flooding and create farms and cities over the past century and a half. Those that survived the habitat loss became easy prey for bass introduced from the East.
Unlike Pacific salmon, the Oregon chub was relatively easy to save because it inhabits small places and does not get in the way of huge economic forces, such as logging, hydroelectric power and farming, said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Brian Bangs, who since 2005 has supervised recovery efforts.
Joe Moll, executive director of the McKenzie River Trust, said the chub's obscurity made it easier to find solutions because there were none of the high stakes and big egos involved in charismatic species like wolves, grizzly bears and salmon.
The Oregon chub is a small minnow, typically about 3 inches long, with an olive-green back, silvery sides and large scales.