Santa Ana Fish Habitat Protection Battle

fish habitat

The past year has been a battle for habitat protection in Santa Ana for sucker fish, an endangered species. This has come to an end on Monday when the U.S Supreme Court decline to review cases by a few inland water agencies.

These water districts have been fighting against the Fish and Wildlife services against the designation of 9,331 acres alongside the Santa Ana River as a habitat for the fish.

Critical habitats are crucial to the survival of endangered species. When an area is designated a critical habitat it does not prohibit development but it allows for the federal agencies to fund activities and consult with the Fish and Wildlife department to ensure nothing is destroyed or affected.

The districts believed that the habitat protection was based off of flawed sciences and didn’t comply with obligations to local agencies to resolve water issues and protect endangered species.

Doug Headrick general manager of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, who was involved with the lawsuit said “Of course we’re disappointed, but we weren’t waiting around for this decision. Some years ago we went down the path of developing a habitat conservation plan in cooperation with state and federal resource agencies.”

Conservation Plans

The plans for conservation is to breed 1,500 of these fish in a safe environment before putting them back into the river where they used to live and begin increasing their populations. Environmentalists were happy that the case was not forced by decision to go to court. This is a big win for the Santa Ana fish. The protections that comes with the prior plans will make sure that the fish have a future and other species part of the river who are dependent and interconnected with the fish.

The conservation groups began fighting against any encroachment on the river and decimation of the species in 1999. Over ninety five percent of the fish have disappeared from their historical range. They were listed as a fish with risk of extinction in the Endangered Species Act in 2000.

The Lawsuit

This battle started in 2011 when twelve different water districts and cities filed a lawsuit that challenged the designated land for the fish. Luckily the Supreme Court didn’t take this case and the science and public support was on the conservationist’s side.

Ileen Anderson, a biologist said that  “As part of the Santa Ana Sucker Conservation Team, I’ve watched the sucker population in the Santa Ana river decline to a point where its very existence is on the line, knowing that critical habitat for the sucker — the bare minimum the species needs to survive — remains intact allows all of us to move forward with recovering this unique fish. And it’ll ensure water quality and quantity for people too.”

She has been working for over a decade to make sure that these fish are protected and can keep flourishing in the historical area they used to live in. Another win for the environmentalists in Santa Ana.


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