On September 13, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) posted a final rule removing the Foskett speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus ssp.) from the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The dace, which was listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a threatened species in 1985, is being removed from the List of Threatened and Endangered Species on the basis of recovery. In its final notice, the Service indicates that the threats to the dace have been “eliminated or reduced to the point where [the dace] no longer meets the definition of an endangered or threatened species” under the ESA. The Service’s final rule will become effective on October 15, 2019.
The dace is a small fish that is native to Oregon, primarily inhabiting the Warner Basin and Alkali Subbasin, and was subject to a 1998 recovery plan that encompassed both the dace and two other native fish species that live within those two water bodies. In its original listing decision, the Service noted that the primary threats to the dace were livestock use of its habitat, mechanical modification of its habitat, and pumping of groundwater and lowering of the water table. The 1985 listing decision also noted that the dace lacked sufficient state protections. Although it was listed at the state level as a fully protected species, Oregon law did not provide for critical habitat and there was no recovery plan or management plan for the dace. Finally, the original 1985 listing determination indicated that the potential introduction of exotic species, the species’ small and relatively isolated population size, and the lack of connectivity to other water bodies were other factors that threatened the species. While some of these threats remain, the Service’s final rule concludes that the Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s actions in the years since 1985 have significantly decreased the threats to the dace to the point where it is no longer in danger of becoming endangered or extinct in the foreseeable future. The final rule also concludes that climate change is not a significant threat to the species, because the dace prefers deeper portions of the Foskett springs, which are less likely to be impacted by increased surface temperatures.
The Service’s decision to delist the dace followed a routine five-year review of the species’ status, as required by the ESA. The five-year review revealed that the species’ population has increased in the years since its listing, and that the livestock and water use threats that once existed have significantly decreased over that time. After the delisting rule goes into effect on October 15, the Service will continue monitoring the status of the species with the assistance of Oregon state-based partners for a period of five years.