Grand Canyon Help On Its Way

Conservationists Take First Step to Restore Grand Canyon Fish


Steele Wotkyns, Grand Canyon Trust, 928-774-7488


Jay Tutchton, Earthjustice, 303-871-6034

“The Grand Canyon is in trouble,” said Geoff Barnard, president of the Grand Canyon Trust. “Today we are launching a major effort to save Grand Canyon by restoring the health of the Colorado River.”

The Grand Canyon Trust, represented by Earthjustice, today notified the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service of its intent to sue over Endangered Species Act violations contained within the Service’s recently released Recovery Goals for four endangered fish, indicators of the health of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon.

On August 1, 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued revised Recovery Plans (Recovery Goals) for four endangered Colorado River fish-the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, and razorback sucker. The Grand Canyon Trust contends that the new Recovery Goals will not only not recover the endangered fish, but will actually hurt their chances for recovery. “The Recovery Goals are not based upon the best available science and in fact will leave these fish in greater peril than they were when originally listed,” said Nikolai Ramsey, program officer at the Grand Canyon Trust.

The humpback chub, one of four endangered fish found only in the Colorado River and existing there for the last 2 million years, is sliding toward extinction in Grand Canyon. Between 1982 and 2001, their population has declined from 7,500 to 1,100 adults-a stunning 85 percent decrease in population size. The Recovery Goals for humpback chub defines their population as recovered at 2,100 adults. “That number is unacceptably low,” said Jay Tutchton, attorney for Earthjustice. “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s new ‘recovery’ goal is a feel-good fairy tale based not on sound science, but political expediency and the desires of powerful special interests.” The dramatic decline in the abundance of this fish in Grand Canyon has been detailed in a recent study, “Current Status and Trends for humpback chub (Gila cypha) in Grand Canyon,” by the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center’s Biological Sciences Program.

Ten years after Congress passed the Grand Canyon Protection Act in 1992, critical natural resources, including the humpback chub, on the Colorado River within Grand Canyon are in serious decline. Habitat changes created by Glen Canyon Dam and the proliferation of nonnative fish are the primary suspects in the dramatic decline of the humpback chub in Grand Canyon. The chub evolved over eons in relatively warm, sediment-rich waters in a system prone to both flooding and drought. Water releases from Glen Canyon Dam are cold and clear, creating unfavorable habitat conditions for the humpback chub and favorable habitat conditions for the chub’s nonnative predators.

“Concerning the state of the resources on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, the humpback chub is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Ramsey. “Four native fish are already extirpated; the humpback chub is about to become number five. And sediment, essential for building beaches and sustaining other important river resources, is also in serious decline.”

“It is critical that these endangered fish get Recovery Goals actually supportive of their recovery,” said Barnard. “We will fight in court in order to save these valuable native Colorado River fish and restore the Grand Canyon to health.”

Grand Canyon Trust protects and restores the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau. For more information and background, visit

Earthjustice works through the courts to safeguard public lands, national forests, parks, and wilderness areas; to reduce air and water pollution; to prevent toxic contamination; and to preserve endangered species and wildlife habitat. Visit


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