Who cares about a tiny minnow that lives in puddles, stagnant marshes and beaver ponds?
According to scientists at the Institute for Wildlife in Eugene, you should. And they've even provided a Rogue to blame, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which the institute says is breaking the law by failing to protect the skinny minnows.
Oddly known as the Oregon chub (Oregonichthys crameri), the minnow has been listed under the Endangered Species Act since 1993. But according to a lawsuit filed March 9 in U.S. District Court in Portland, the feds have failed to take steps required by that law to save them.
The lawsuit filed by the Eugene-based nonprofit asks the court to order Fish and Wildlife to establish critical habitat for the fish, and to begin five-year reviews on efforts to save them—safeguards required under the Endangered Species Act.
The chub doesn't have the sex appeal of the salmon, baby harp seal, grizzly bear or bald eagle. But all species are worth saving, says Randy Webb, senior ecologist at the Institute for Wildlife. "Just because humans don't really care about it," Webb says, "does that mean we should get rid of it?"
According to Webb, it's important to establish the critical habitat, because then landowners can't damage it. Sand and gravel pits, sewage plants and road projects would be the biggest losers, he says.
Joan Jewett, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Portland office, says the agency hasn't designated critical habitat for the chub because it couldn't be determined. The five-year plans were dropped "due to the press of other business," but one is planned for this year, she says.
The chub is "doing very well," Jewett says, and is close to being upgraded from "endangered" to "threatened." But Webb says that's beside the point because the law says the chub should be getting the protections of an endangered species.
And the Rogue desk agrees. "The idea is that these things need to be recovered," Webb says. "And that is not happening."