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Endangered Fish

Recovery Program A Model for Success


The program to recover four endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado River, in which WRA plays a big role, is recognized as being a template that other public-private partnerships should follow. By uniting all parties to have a common stake in a positive outcome, the Recovery Program has made steady progress on removing barriers to meet its ultimate goal of recovering these endangered fish to self-sustaining populations.

Anne Castle, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science, recognized this feat in her remarks to the Colorado River Water Users Association Annual Meeting on Thursday, December 10, 2009:

"Two of our current recovery efforts are poster children for the successes that result when all parties join together in good faith - the Upper Colorado River and San Juan Recovery Implementation Programs. These Programs have become national models demonstrating that endangered species conservation and water development can be compatible. There are multiple projects that are part of these Programs, but both include construction of fish passages structuresthat have opened up 10s and even 100s of miles of river to fish migration."

The full text of the speech can be found on the Department of Interior's website.

The Four Endangered Fish



Humpback chubBonytail
Colorado pikeminnowRazorback sucker

WRA, along with The Nature Conservancy, is a partner in a collaborative multi-state and multi-agency effort to improve conditions for four species of endangered fishes in the Colorado River and its major tributaries. These fish, once numerous, are now endangered because of dams that have blocked them from their historic range, predatory invasive species, as well as severe changes to the natural flow of western rivers because of human activities. The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program is working to bring back populations of these fish to self-sustaining levels and prevent them from being wiped off the face of the earth


A Big Win for the Fish:
Bureau of Reclamation Finalizes Decision to Change Releases from Flaming Gorge Dam

Utah- Early in 2006, the Bureau of Reclamation put the finishing touches on a multi-year effort to find a new way to operate Flaming Gorge dam and reservoir. For several years, WRA, along with partners at The Nature Conservancy, have been part of a collaborative multi-state and multi-agency effort finding ways to improve conditions for several species of endangered fishes in the Colorado River and its major tributaries.

The re-operation of Flaming Gorge will increase peak flows, especially in wet years, and improve temperatures in several hundred miles of the Green River, including Dinosaur National Monument. This effort, linked to many others in the Endangered Species Recovery Program, aim to pull four species of warm water fish back from the brink of extinction.

WRA is involved in a similar effort on the Gunnison River, where re-operation of the 3-dam Aspinall Unit will improve river flows and other habitat in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and reaches of the Gunnison River and Colorado River downstream. The process has been complicated and slow, but will result in long-term protection for fish that have called the Colorado River basin their home for centuries.