Park News 4
Diamond Darter Gets Protection
WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized the listing of the diamond darter, one of the most imperiled fish in the southeastern U.S., as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, according to a new regulation.
Already listed by the Southeastern Fishes Council as one of the southeast's 12 most imperiled fishes, or "desperate dozen," the 3 inch long diamond darter is now found in only one segment of the lower Elk River in West Virginia.
"Despite...extensive and targeted survey efforts within the species' known range and preferred habitat in the Elk River, fewer than 50 individuals have been collected over the last 30 years," the 2012 listing proposal said. The historic range of these tiny perch family members included the Muskingum River in Ohio, the Ohio River in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, the Green River in Kentucky and the Cumberland River Drainage in Kentucky and Tennessee.
The species was "rediscovered" in the Elk River in 1980 during a survey, when one individual was collected. It was believed to be "extirpated," or extinct throughout its range before the rediscovery, the proposed rule said.
The USFWS's action to protect the fish was "spurred by a landmark agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protection decisions for 757 species," according to the CBD's press release in response to the final rule.
"The Center and a coalition of 16 other conservation groups submitted comments in support of the fish's protection. More than 4,800 Center supporters submitted comments to the Service in favor of protecting the darter," while "the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, West Virginia Coal Association, West Virginia Forestry Association and West Virginia Chamber of Commerce all submitted comments opposing the fish's protection," the CBD said.
The darter lacks a swim bladder, which helps it remain near the bottom of its warm freshwater river and stream habitats. Researchers believe the fish bury themselves under the sand then dart out at prey. Embryos develop in the tiny spaces within the coarse sand or gravel bottom. Darters are found in riffles and pools where swift currents sweep the stream beds clean and keep them free from siltation.
The darters' small population size and limited range add to threats such as siltation, sedimentation and pollution from coal mining, oil and gas development, timber harvesting, all-terrain vehicle use, sewage treatment, damming, and erosion. In addition, the species faces potential threats from climate change, global warming and invasive species such as Japanese knotweed and Didymosphenia geminate, an alga known as "rock snot," which grows in suffocating mats that can be eight inches thick covering the entire stream bed for over a half mile, according to the final rule.
"Darters play an important role in waterway systems as indicators of good water quality and diversity. The presence of a healthy darter population indicates that a river is healthy and would sustain other populations of fish, such as musky or bass," the USFWS noted in its statement.
The USFWS is preparing a recovery plan for the fish, and will finalize the proposed 123 river miles of critical habitat designation in a separate rule, the agency says. The darter's protected endangered status is effective Aug. 26.
In Mammoth Cave National Park
MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., July 26, 2013 - On July 22, 2013, Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead signed an agreement with the Southwest Kentucky Mountain Bike Association which establishes its members as the primary caretakers of the new 8-mile Big Hollow Trail.
“The relationship is a model for Mammoth Cave trail users, and for trail all across the National Park System,” said Craighead. “The biking community has made a promise to keep Big Hollow Trail in good conditions for hikers and bikers alike. It makes good sense that if you use a trail, you help maintain it.”
The Southwest Kentucky Mountain Bike Association, or SWKyMBA, is a local chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association, one of three in the state.
The agreement states that SWKyMBA will volunteer to maintain and repair the new 8-mile trail, since the Park no longer has funding or staff to take care for its entire 80-mile system of surface trails.
"Our members are excited to be part of the Big Hollow Trail, the first professionally built mountain bike and hike trail built in a national park,” said SWKyMBA Chairman Chip Winger, who signed the agreement. “This is a momentous occasion not just for mountain bikers, but for hikers and trail runners alike who will also enjoy the use of the trail. Our Chapter appreciates the trust that Superintendent Craighead has bestowed upon our organization to become the stewards of Big Hollow Trail.”
Big Hollow Trail is presently under construction in the backcountry of the Park, north of Green River and east of the Green River Road. The Park contracted with Trail Dynamics and the Lightsey Corporation to build the new trail to specifications appropriate for hiking and mountain biking.
Dependent on the weather, the trail is slated for completion in fall 2013.