The Montana fluvial arctic grayling -- a silvery fish with a sail-like dorsal fin -- is a member of the salmon family. In the lower-48 states, the species has been reduced to a single self-sustaining population in a short stretch of the Big Hole River in Montana. So few grayling have been found that agencies have not been able to estimate their populations, suggesting the species is on the brink of extinction.
The grayling was first recognized as a candidate for Endangered Species protection in 1982, a status reaffirmed in 2004 and again in 2005. But the Bush administration sharply reversed course in 2007 and denied the grayling protection, claiming that extinction of the Montana population would be insignificant. Now, in response to a lawsuit brought by the Earthjustice on behalf of several conservation and fishing groups, the grayling has a chance to survive. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to reconsider it for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
"This settlement gives the Obama administration a chance to erase the mistakes of the past and recognize the urgent threat to this species," said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso. According to the court-approved settlement agreement, a decision on the grayling's status will be made by August 30, 2010.
Earthjustice represented the Center for Biological Diversity, Federation of Fly Fishers, Western Watersheds Project, Dr. Pat Munday, and former Montana fishing guide George Wuerthner.