Snail darter, focus of epic conservation fight, is recovered

Oct 4, 2022, 11:27 AM | Updated: 12:29 pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The snail darter, a tiny Southeastern fish that derailed a federal dam during an epic battle over Endangered Species Act protection in the 1970s, is no longer considered imperiled, officials announced Tuesday.

The fish held up construction of the Tellico Dam in Tennessee for more than two years as biologists and others fought to protect its only known habitat, the free-flowing Little Tennessee River. The battle, which went to the U.S. Supreme Court and beyond, is still sometimes cited as an example of environmentalist overreach, although the reality is much more complicated.

The dam eventually was built, with snail darters collected and transplanted into other rivers. They were also later discovered in several additional streams.

Snail darters went from being considered an endangered species in 1975 to a threatened species in 1984 as they continued to recover. Three years ago, the Center for Biological Diversity, Jim Williams and Zygmunt Plater petitioned to remove the fish from federal protection altogether. Williams is the biologist who listed the snail darter as endangered. Plater is the attorney who sued to protect it.

The U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday announced the snail darter’s official removal from the federal list of threatened and endangered wildlife. It is the fifth fish species, and the first in the eastern United States, to be delisted because the population has recovered, according to the agency.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a news release called the fish’s recovery “a remarkable conservation milestone that tells a story about how controversy and polarization can evolve into cooperation and a big conservation success.”

Snail darters are members of the perch family. They have four dark brown bands on a lighter brown body, grow as long as 3.5 inches (9 centimeters), and eat mostly freshwater snails.

The protection of the snail darter was the first big test of the Endangered Species Act because protecting it meant blocking construction of a Tennessee Valley Authority dam. Although the conflict was portrayed as environmental extremists versus economic realists, in reality, the Tellico Dam was quite small and unneeded to generate electricity.

After Plater took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, Congress created a high-level committee to consider possible exceptions to the Endangered Species Act. But that committee also ruled in favor of the fish, finding that the dam project did not make economic sense. Congress eventually exempted the Tellico Dam from the Endangered Species Act through a rider to an appropriations bill.

Plater said in an interview that their petition for delisting was not without reservations. Although the snail darter has recovered, several of its populations still depend on human intervention. The Tennessee Valley Authority adds liquid oxygen to the water at times and pulses dams to get silt off the gravel where the snail darters spawn.

Those actions help produce conditions closer to that of a free-flowing river and are good for other fish and aquatic animals. So, in that way, the Endangered Species Act still helped the snail darter. Its recovery was also helped by the Clean Water Act, which has reduced water pollution, Williams said.

“The point is that the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act work,” Williams said. “It’s taken about 50 years to start seeing some results, but it took us 100 years to destroy things. Give it time.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Wreaths hang on the Truman Balcony of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP Pho...
Associated Press

‘We the People’ is the White House’s theme for the holidays

WASHINGTON (AP) — Drawing decorating inspiration from America’s founding documents, Jill Biden chose a “We the People” theme to deck the White House halls and to remind Americans of what unites them throughout the year, especially during the holidays. Journalists were given a sneak peek early Monday before the first lady was to unveil the […]
4 hours ago
FILE - Holding cells are visible in a basement of a police station that was used by Russian forces ...
Associated Press

Biden boosts US effort to stem sexual violence in war zones

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is strengthening U.S. policy aimed at stemming sexual violence in war conflict zones, elevating the problem — increasingly documented in Ukraine and elsewhere — to the level of a possible serious human rights abuse that triggers sanctions and other actions against foreign perpetrators. Biden, a Democrat, on Monday will […]
4 hours ago
FILE - Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ...
Associated Press

Democrats kept the Senate this year, but 2024 may be harder

NEW YORK (AP) — Democrats celebrating a successful effort to keep control of the U.S. Senate this year will soon confront a 2024 campaign that could prove more challenging. The party enters the next cycle defending 23 seats, including two held by independents who caucus with Democrats. That’s compared with just 10 seats that Republicans […]
4 hours ago
Associated Press

Water levels in Zimbabwe’s biggest dam too low for power

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Electricity shortages that have been plaguing Zimbabwe are set to worsen after an authority that manages the country’s biggest dam said water levels are now too low to continue power generation activities. The Zambezi River Authority, which runs the Kariba Dam jointly owned by Zimbabwe and neighboring Zambia, said in a […]
4 hours ago
FILE - The Federal Correctional Institution is shown in Dublin, Calif., July 20, 2006. The former w...
Associated Press

Ex-prison warden faces trial over inmate abuse allegations

The former warden of an abuse-plagued federal women’s prison known as the “rape club” goes on trial Monday, accused of molesting inmates and forcing them to pose naked in their cells. Ray J. Garcia, who retired after the FBI found nude photos of inmates on his government-issued phone last year, is among five workers charged […]
4 hours ago
Associated Press

California Police: Virginia man killed family, took teenager

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — The suspect in a triple homicide in Southern California who died in a shootout with police Friday is believed to have driven across the country to meet a teenage girl before killing three members of her family, police said. Austin Lee Edwards, 28, also likely set fire to the family’s home […]
4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Snail darter, focus of epic conservation fight, is recovered