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U.S. Fish and Wildlife announces new plan to help native Oklahoma minnow recover from habitat loss

An Arkansas River shiner
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Region
An Arkansas River shiner

Arkansas River shiners are silvery minnows that can only be found in one Oklahoma river. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a plan to change that.

Arkansas River shiners need 135 miles of uninterrupted river or stream to breed, and that’s hard to come by these days. Over the last century, people have dammed up rivers to create lakes and straightened them out for urban development.

A century ago, Arkansas River shiners lived all across the Southern Great Plains. But today the fish don’t even live in their namesake river. The species has been listed as threatened since 1998 and is currently only found in the Canadian River in Western Oklahoma and Eastern New Mexico.

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional office in Tulsa announced a plan to help Arkansas River shiner populations recover. The goal is to protect the fish's habitats and introduce shiners back to some of the streams they used to live in.

“With successful implementation of this recovery plan, we expect the status of the Arkansas River shiner to improve such that we can delist the species in approximately 30 years,” the plan’s authors wrote.

Wildlife officials hope to maintain at least three populations of the fish into the future. They say the plan will take $90 million and cooperation with many government and community partners.

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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