Automakers pledge to help protect threatened fish near Mazda Toyota plant

Spring Pygmy Sunfish (Courtesy: J.R. Shute, Conservative Fisheris, Inc.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA has pledged to take steps to protect an endangered fish that’s found in only two places — one of them near the company’s new manufacturing plant.

Mazda Toyota will place $4 million in an endowment fund that will pay for conservation efforts benefiting the spring pygmy sunfish, according to a news release from the Center for Biological Diversity. Another $2 million will be used to restore the habitat monitor the Beaverdam Spring and Creek watershed.

“With this agreement, the sunfish has more than a fighting chance to make it,” Elise Bennett, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a news release.

The center threatened to sue over the summer as site preparation work got underway for the $1.6 billion plant, claiming the work would impair the water quality in the area where the fish lives. The spring pygmy sunfish’s only known habitat is two places in North Alabama.

The agreement also protects 1,100 acres of the area where the sunfish lives, limiting the land to “restricted and low-impact uses,” according to the conservation group.

The city of Huntsville said in a statement that officials are pleased to see the partnership to protect the fish.

“With this collaborative effort by multiple organizations, the future for the Spring Pygmy Sunfish will be stable and possibly no longer be threatened,” the statement read.

Mazda Toyota’s plant will manufacture Toyota Corollas and a new Mazda crossover vehicle. The plant is expected to employ up to 4,000 workers.

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