Federal officials designate critical habitat for endangered north Alabama fish

Spring Pygmy Sunfish

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that it would protect the habitat of a threatened fish whose only known home is in Limestone and Madison counties.

The spring pygmy sunfish’s home is primarily in Limestone County. The wildlife service announced Wednesday that it was designating 6.7 miles of streams and 1,330 acres of land as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

The inch-long fish lives currently in the upper Beaver Dam Spring/Creek complex in Limestone County, and in Blackwell Swamp in Madison County. In addition to protecting those areas, the wildlife service also protected a site in Pryor Springs in Limestone County, where the fish used to live and could be reintroduced.

“These habitat protections will help guide the sunfish back from the brink of extinction and onto the path to recovery,” said Elise Bennett, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “After watching these tenacious little fish cling to survival for decades while their springs were polluted and destroyed, it’s a relief to see them finally get the safeguards they need.”

The center sued the wildlife service last June, claiming that the fish’s habitat was in danger of being destroyed by the construction of a massive automobile plant for Mazda Toyota North America.

Mazda Toyota placed money in an endowment fund to help conservation efforts for the sunfish.

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