San Francisco – Two species of Pacific salmon – Winter-run Chinook and Central California Coastal Coho, Southern Mountain Yellow legged frog, Sierra Nevada Yellow legged frog, and the San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat comprise five of many species of wildlife being impacted by water problems in California, according to a new report released this week by the Endangered Species Coalition. Water Woes: How Dams, Diversions, Dirty Water and Drought Put America’s Wildlife at Risk examines the ways that decreasing water quality and reduced water quantity threaten imperiled species in ten important ecosystems across the United States.
Water Woes can be downloaded http://waterwoes.org.
“Coho salmon on the Central California Coast are, in the words of the National Marine Fisheries Service, in an ‘extinction vortex’. ” That is, the population is dangerously close to extinction and its critical status requires immediate and focused action. The largest population occurs in Marin County, California, where local Supervisors have failed to take adequate protective action. Only focused grassroots action can create the political will necessary to save this species from extinction–and this is where we have focused our energy,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of SPAWNusa.org.
“We will continue to advocate that all water users, from private property gardeners to large ranchers and municipalities, make responsible decisions to support the cooperative recovery efforts”, added Dr. Chris Pincetich, outreach manager for SPAWN. “Our work to improve and protect the habitat of coho salmon provides benefits to all species that share the S.F. bay watershed, to our local economy, and to our own communities.”
“Many of our nation’s threatened and endangered wildlife are on the brink of extinction because of water pollution and sedimentation, or due to dramatically altered and reduced water flows,” said Leda Huta, the Coalition’s executive director. “Less than 1 percent of the available water on the planet is freshwater. It is essentially the lifeblood for us and many other species, so it’s critical that we take good care of it,” said Huta.
California is our most populated state, and is second only to Hawaii in the number of threatened or endangered species. “Californians has always valued our fish,wildlife and open spaces, and want them protected. As our population and economy grows there is more demands on resources, like water, that fish and wildlife need for survival”, said Dr. Mark Rockwell, the state representative for the Endangered Species Coalition. “We in California need to find balanced solutions for our water needs, and remember that for some species it means life or death.”
“Americans understand that a healthy environment and a healthy economy go together. Nothing makes that point more clearly than the decline of California’s salmon,” said Barry Nelson, senior policy analyst for the National Resource Defense Council. “The Central Valley’s imperiled winter and spring run Chinook salmon are an indicator of the health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem. They are also the canary in the mine for California’s valuable commercial and recreational salmon fishing industry that provides hundreds of millions of dollars annually and thousands of jobs. This salmon fishery is a part of California’s natural heritage that the public values for its intrinsic value and for providing healthy, delicious local food.”
The report identifies agricultural pollution, dams and stream flow diversions as some of the biggest problems collaborating to keep water-dependent wildlife at risk of extinction. Recurring drought resulting from global climate change may also be a key stressor for wildlife already struggling to survive. Additionally, the report states that hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a new technique for extracting oil and natural gas is on the rise and is now resulting in at least nine billion liters of contaminated water per day.
Like the proverbial “canary in the coal mine”, amphibians are indicator species. The health of an ecosystem can be observed by studying the health of its frogs. The Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs have disappeared from 93% of their historic range. This fact clearly indicates that there is something going drastically wrong in their environment. The frogs are telling us that something needs to change.
The ecosystems in the report include Florida’s famous Everglades, the mighty Colorado River, and the towering Sierra Nevada mountains, as well as coastal and valley watersheds in California, and important stream beds in Southern California. “The San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat lives in the last creeks and washes of Southern California’s sprawling Inland Empire,” said Dan Silver of the Endangered Habitats League. “But it has been devastated by dams and habitat loss, which continues with massive development in flood plains.”
For each ecosystem, the report identifies some of the endangered species that live there, as well as the necessary conservation measures that will be required to help them to survive. Coalition member groups from across the country nominated the species and ecosystems for inclusion in the report, and the submissions were then reviewed and judged by an elite panel of scientists. Most of these imperiled species are fish, but the report also identifies two amphibians, two birds, two mammals and one plant, all of which are facing water challenges within these ten ecosystems.
The Endangered Species Coalition has produced a “Top 10” report annually for the last five years.
Water Woes can be downloaded http://waterwoes.org. Previous years’ reports are available on the Coalition’s website, www.stopextinction.org.