Are Central Valley Steelhead really threatened?
By Peter Moyle
The primary goal of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) is to shorten the government’s list of “endangered” and “threatened” species. The American Peregrine falcon, the brown pelican, the eastern Steller sea lion and California populations of the gray whale are among the iconic creatures that have recovered to large populations and have been “delisted,” thanks to the strong conservation measures afforded under the 40-year-old law.
But there is another, less congratulatory way species have made it off the lists: new and better information becomes available showing a species is no longer or never was in danger of extinction.
Though better known for saving species, the ESA also has had the salutary effect of encouraging continuous scientific monitoring and studies of listed species to confirm or update their status. A good example is the Sacramento splittail. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the native California fish as threatened in 1999, but delisted the species in 2003 because new information showed it was more abundant and resilient than once thought.
Central Valley steelhead could be delisted for similar reasons.
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