SILVER CITY, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added a fish called the peppered chub to the endangered species list today. The agency also designated 872 river miles of critical habitat in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma for the chub, a 3-inch-long, torpedo-shaped fish of the Great Plains.
Peppered chubs are on the brink of extinction. They survive only in the upper South Canadian River in northern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle and in a tributary creek, comprising about 6% of their historic range. That river stretch is gaining pollution and losing water to drought.
“Peppered chubs are barely getting this lifesaving protection in time,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Under the Endangered Species Act, habitat protection, captive breeding and reintroduction can keep these exquisite fish from going extinct.”
Today’s actions resulted from a 2020 lawsuit filed by the Center after the peppered chub and 240 other declining animal and plant species were left in limbo with no Endangered Species Act protection. WildEarth Guardians petitioned for its protection in 2007.
The critical habitat consists of 197 miles of the upper South Canadian River and Revuelto Creek in New Mexico and Texas, which support the sole remaining population; 400 miles of the lower South Canadian River in Texas and Oklahoma; and 275 miles in the Cimarron River in Oklahoma.
“Peppered chubs once shared their rivers with thirsty bison, but their habitat has been overexploited and now these fishes are in deep trouble,” said Robinson. “We can retain a small but beautiful part of the circle of life on the Great Plains through this endangered listing and critical habitat protection, and I’m relieved and grateful.”