A coalition of environmental groups is opposing the plan to move the razorback sucker in the Colorado River from endangered to threatened.
The group, led by WildEarth Guardians, submitted comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tuesday.
The sucker is one of four native Colorado River species in the Colorado River that are imperiled. The razorback sucker "exists against all odds in this failing river," the coalition said in a statement Wednesday.
Read the comments by clicking here.
The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the change in July, saying the downgrade is warranted because of the species' strong recovery, with an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 razorback suckers in the Green, Colorado and San Juan river systems, compared to its historic high of 70,000. Endangered species are defined as those "in danger of extinction."
The 60-day period for public comment ended Tuesday.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is celebrating a win when there is still lots of time left on the clock,” Jen Pelz, the wild rivers program director for WildEarth Guardians, said in the statement. “The dangers to the Colorado River’s endangered fish are multiplying every day as climate change exposes the past century of unsustainable water use and management.”
The razorback sucker, named for its sharp dorsal fin and large fleshy mouth, has been listed as endangered since 1991 with only 25% of its historic range still available. In 1994, nearly 1,750 miles of river were designated as critical habitat for the species in the Yampa, Green, Colorado, Gunnison, San Juan, Gila and Salt rivers.
The species can live for more than 40 years and weigh up to 14 pounds. They typically are about 20 inches long but can grow up to 36 inches, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The environmental organizations cited climate change and water shortage that has decimated Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the lower river storage basins.
“The decline of the razorback sucker and the other imperiled Colorado River fish decades ago set off the original alarm bell that the health of the river is failing,” stated Joe Bushyhead, the endangered species advocate at WildEarth Guardians. “Unfortunately, the river is still failing, and razorback suckers cannot complete their full lifecycle in the wild. The service has to constantly stock these fish to keep them from going extinct, and is now conflating this band-aid approach with recovery.”
Other members of the group include Colorado Riverkeepers Living Rivers, Friends of Animals, Save the Colorado, the Colorado chapter of the Sierra Club, Utah Rivers Council and the Waterkeeper Alliance.