Monday, April 15, 2013

Klamath sucker recovery plan issued

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued its final revised recovery plan for Lost River and shortnose suckers in the Klamath Basin. From the agency:
Recovery plans are guidance documents required by the Endangered Species Act for all listed species. While recovery plans do not have a regulatory purpose, they are an important tool to ensure sound scientific and logistical decision making throughout the recovery process.

“The ultimate goal of the recovery program for Lost River and shortnose suckers is to implement actions that will lead to the recovery of these species so that Endangered Species Act protection is no longer necessary,” said Laurie Sada, field supervisor of the Service’s Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office. “The final revised recovery plan outlines strategies to reduce Lost River and shortnose sucker mortality, restore habitat, increase connectivity between spawning and rearing habitats, and improve water quality.”

The recovery plan states that if actions are successfully implemented, then Lost River and shortnose suckers could recover in five to seven generations, or roughly 30 to 50 years. In addition, the Service estimates that that the cost to achieve recovery is roughly $135 million.

The revised recovery plan also acknowledges and builds upon many significant recovery actions undertaken to date including: restoration of the Williamson River Delta, removal of Chiloquin Dam, screening of the A-Canal and Geary Canal intakes, and construction of the fish ladder in the Link River Dam.

While recent conservation efforts have helped to prevent the species from extinction, Lost River and shortnose sucker continue to face serious threats to their existence. Data indicate that it has been more than 10 years since a substantial amount of individuals have joined the adult population in Upper Klamath Lake for both species, meaning that as older individuals die off, juvenile suckers are not surviving long enough to replace them.

In addition, data show that as of 2010, the shoreline spawning population of Lost River sucker in Upper Klamath Lake was estimated to have declined to between 56 and 75 percent of 2002 levels. Similar patterns for Lost River suckers are becoming apparent in Clear Lake Reservoir as well. Shortnose sucker spawners that ascend the Williamson and Sprague Rivers are estimated to have declined to approximately 30 percent of 2001 levels. Populations in Gerber and Clear Lake Reservoirs appear stable, although data are very sparse.

Should sucker populations continue to decline, the revised recovery plan also calls for a controlled propagation program as a last resort to protect the species from imminent extinction. While artificial propagation programs have likely contributed to continued persistence of several related species, no controlled propagation program have been successful to achieve delisting.

The revised recovery plan also describes a number of criteria that need to be met in order for the Lost River and shortnose sucker to be downlisted to threatened status or to be de-listed altogether and no longer require ESA protections. (See attached PDF for the fact sheet for these criteria).

The recovery plan released today has undergone public comment and was submitted to a scientific peer review. While the recovery plan issued today is final, recovery plans are subject to modification as dictated by new findings, changes in species status, and completion of recovery actions.

The recovery plan is also consistent with the Service’s final critical habitat rule for the two species, which was published in 2012. The Service designated approximately 282 miles of streams, and 241,438 acres of lakes and reservoirs as critical habitat. Critical habitat is defined as areas that contain the physical and biological features that are essential for the conservation of the species.

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