Another Oregon fish — the Foskett speckled dace — is now being delisted from the federal list of threatened and endangered wildlife because it has recovered and no longer meets the definition of threatened under the Endangered Species Act, says the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service.
The Foskett speckled dace is found only in Lake County, in Oregon’s Foskett Spring, where it originated, and in the nearby Dace Spring, where it was introduced. The dace lives within a very small geographic footprint in the remnant desert waters of the Great Basin. Its isolated location, low numbers and vulnerability to habitat loss were the primary reasons why the fish was first federally protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1985.
In February, 2015, the Oregon chub became the first fish in the United States to be taken off the federal Endangered Species List as the result of population recovery. The Oregon chub, a small minnow found only in western Oregon’s Willamette River basin, is found in floodplain habitats with little or no water flow. It was listed as endangered in 1993 and reclassified as threatened in 2010.
The Modoc sucker, found in Oregon and California, was the second fish delisted due to recovery. In addition, the USFWS is considering a proposal to delist a fourth Oregon fish, the Borax Lake chub. Borax Lake is a natural lake fed from the waters of several thermal springs and is perched atop large sodium-borate deposits in Oregon’s Alvord Desert.
The Foskett speckled dace’s recovery is due to a collaboration among the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management and other members of the Oregon Desert Fishes Working Group, who secured and restored habitat to ensure long-term protection of the fish.
“The Service is thrilled with Oregon’s progress,” said Robyn Thorson, the Service’s Pacific Region Director. “During the last five years, this is the fourth fish we have officially delisted or proposed for delisting due to recovery in the state. Our commitment to working closely with local and state partners is really paying off, and we can now direct our focus to species that are more in need of recovery efforts.”
“BLM is proud to have been a part of the Foskett speckled dace recovery effort,” said BLM Oregon/Washington Acting State Director Theresa Hanley. “In cooperation with the Service and ODFW, we created habitat and established a second population at nearby Dace Spring, and led open water restoration efforts at Foskett Spring. Our partnership recovery efforts led to an increase in the species distribution and abundance, and ultimately its recovery. BLM will continue to manage the area to ensure it is maintained in a condition that promotes the persistence of the Foskett speckled dace and the unique environments in which it resides,” said Hanley.
Thanks to BLM and other conservation partners, says a USFWS press release, the Foskett speckled dace “is doing well, and threats have been eliminated or reduced.”
At Foskett Spring, BLM acquired the springs and surrounding 161 acres, and ODFW has monitored the species and its habitat. Other recovery criteria for the dace have been fully met, and BLM, ODFW and the Service are working under a cooperative management plan to ensure this species persists into the future with continued habitat management.
“These fish and their unique habitats are an Oregon treasure. Protecting and recovering the Foskett speckled dace has helped protect unique desert aquatic ecosystems that are havens for biodiversity. As these wetlands and species are protected and restored, many other wildlife species have benefitted,” said the USFWS press release.
The fish was proposed for delisting in January 2018.
The Foskett speckled dace is a small minnow and is represented by a single population that inhabits Foskett Spring and nearby Dace Spring on the west side of Coleman Lake in Lake County, Oregon. They grow up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) long. Foskett speckled dace are believed to spawn between late May and early July and reproduce in their second year of age.
Foskett Spring itself represents a unique habitat within the Warner Valley. The spring is isolated in the Coleman Subbasin, water temperature is constant at approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit year round, and has higher mineral concentrations than other springs in Warner Valley.
The basis for the listing determination of Foskett speckled dace was due to a very restricted range, low numbers, and narrow range of occupancy that was vulnerable to and experiencing habitat destruction or modification. Factors included ground water pumping for irrigation, excessive trampling of the habitat by livestock, channeling of the spring for agricultural purposes, other mechanical modifications of the aquatic ecosystem, and livestock water uses.
The Foskett speckled dace was listed as an endangered species in 1985. Critical habitat was never designated.
At the time of listing, Foskett Spring was within a 160-acre parcel of land in private ownership and in 1987, the BLM acquired the 160-acre containing Foskett Spring for conservation of the species.
The Oregon Desert Fish Working Group, comprised of agency and organization personnel along with academics, has met annually since 2005 to share research and conservation information regarding these fish.
During the more than two decades Foskett speckled dace populations have been monitored, they ranged from a low of 1,728 fish in 2011 to a high of 24,888 fish in 2014. Most recent population estimates are: 2015 was 16,340; 2016 was 1,830; and 2017 was 4,279.
Monitoring of Foskett speckled dace has shown considerable variation in abundance correlated with the amount of open-water habitat which varies seasonally and annually.
BLM has manipulated the vegetation in recent years by burning and excavation to increase the extent of open-water habitat to support the conservation of the Foskett speckled dace.