Editorial: And now to celebrate a small species victory

March 02, 2015 9:15 am – Read the original editorial from The Corvallis Gazette-Times

Rep. Peter DeFazio, who has represented Oregon’s Fourth District since 1987, was back home recently to take care of some serious business and to bring us up to date on what he’s been up to in Washington, D.C.

But amid all of the problems, politics and challenges facing him, DeFazio also paused while he was back home to celebrate a victory: In just over two decades, a 3-inch Oregon minnow has wriggled back from the brink of extinction, and a lot of people deserve some praise for that.

Federal wildlife managers formally announced a few weeks ago that the Oregon chub has been removed from the Endangered Species List — the first fish ever taken off the roster of imperiled species. Other fish have come off the list because they went extinct.

DeFazio was with 100 people who gathered at the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge 10 miles south of Corvallis to celebrate that several thriving populations of chub now live there in the shallow freshwater habitat.

Such shallows used to be common in Oregon’s Willamette Basin, but they were filled in by construction and agriculture. By 1993, when the chub was added to the Endangered Species List, only about 1,000 fish remained in eight known populations. Today an estimated 140,000 chub in 80 populations live along the Willamette River and its tributaries.

Credit goes to the ESA, but it also goes to private property owners and stakeholders who worked together to secure havens and habitats for the fish — and the other species who call those shallow waterways home.

It’s worth pausing to thank all of those who made this small victory possible, and Richard Hannan, a deputy regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the ESA, did just that. He noted that Oregon is doing species recovery right. He singled out biologists Paul Scheerer and Brian Bangs of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as the two who led the recovery effort:

“If it wasn’t for them,” Henson said, “we wouldn’t be celebrating the Oregon chub delisting.”

Also deserving kudos are the nonprofit McKenzie River Trust, which has protected six chub populations on its Lane County properties; Gail Haws, an Oakridge-area private landowner who came to the aid of the small chub by offering them safe harbor; the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Willamette National Forest, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Bonneville Power Administration.

We’d like to celebrate more such successes, not only locally, but globally. Perhaps this is expertise that Oregon could export to the many places where large species are in serious trouble. But that is an editorial for another day.