(WJHL) – A tiny Tennessee fish at the center of decades of conservation efforts was declared officially recovered on Tuesday, and federal environmental officials celebrated the win by removing it from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Species.
According to a press release from the Department of Interior, which oversees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (UFWS), the Snail Darter was delisted after a review of scientific and commercial data that showed the fish was no longer in danger of extinction and isn’t at risk in the future.
“The recovery of the snail darter is a remarkable conservation milestone that tells a story about how controversy and polarization can evolve into cooperation and a big conservation success,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “By protecting even the smallest creatures, we show who we are as a country — that we care about our environment and recognize the interconnectedness of our lands, wildlife and people.”
The Snail Darter’s public story began in the 1970s when the UFWS declared it endangered as Tennessee Valley Authority officials announced plans to construct a dam that environmental experts feared would lead to the destruction of the fish’s habitat. After a Supreme Court Ruling solidified the authority of the Endangered Species Act and protected the fish, federal efforts to save the Snail Darter led to its status being downgraded to Threatened in 1984.
“As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act in 2023, this little fish is emblematic of what partnerships can do to protect even the most initially controversial species, showing the ultimate importance of the ESA in preserving species for future generations,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams. “We would like to thank the many partners, including the Tennessee Valley Authority, which made this possible.”
The TVA’s cooperation with environmental authorities increased in the 1990s, the release said, alongside its efforts to improve habitat and water quality conditions surrounding its dams.
After the bottom-dwelling fish’s delisting, a five-year monitoring plan will begin to make sure Snail Darter populations remain in stable condition.