A rare and once-endangered fish, which makes its home in a southern Oregon lake the can reach temperatures of up to 104 degrees, has made a full recovery and was removed from the endangered species list, according to federal officials.
The Borax Lake chub, which lives only in Harney County’s Borax Lake, was granted emergency protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1980 after its numbers dropped precipitously due to geothermal projects around the lake, shoreline degradation from off-road vehicle use and development.
Since then, government agencies have worked to protect land around the lake and acquired water rights to ensure water levels remained high enough for the species’ survival. The tiny fish, which measures about 2 inches fully grown, rebounded dramatically to the point it no longer qualified for federal protection, said Aurelia Skipwith, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Delisting the Borax Lake chub is a direct reflection of the great conservation work of our partners and our combined efforts to ensure this fish no longer faces the threat of extinction,” she said in a statement. “We are so proud of the progress being made in recovering Oregon’s native species. These successes exemplify the commitment and dedication of our local, state and federal partners to work together using the tools of the Endangered Species Act.”
Borax Lake is fed by geothermal springs, accounting for the lake’s extreme temperatures, and the lake also contains high levels of borax, arsenic and lead. Despite high levels of chemicals toxic to other animals, the Borax Lake chub thrived in the 10-acre lake, keeping to the edges where temperatures were more suitable. It is the only animal that is known to live in the lake’s harsh environment.
“Oregon has the only population of Borax Lake chub on the planet, and this minnow exists in one of the most unique habitats in our state,” Curt Melcher, director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a statement. “We are proud to have been a partner in this successful effort conserving another native fish species in Oregon.”
Stephanie Kurose, an endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, lauded the species’ recovery as a success of the Endangered Species Act.
“The odds were stacked against this tiny little fish, but thanks to the Endangered Species Act the Borax Lake chub escaped extinction,” she said. “It’s an amazing comeback for one of Oregon’s most imperiled creatures.”
Officials said they will be keeping an eye on any plans for geothermal exploration in the area and they’ll monitor the fish population for the next 10 years.