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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Issues Final 2016 Biological Opinion For Water-Related Activities in the Upper and Middle Rio Grande

On December 2, 2016, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) issued the final Biological Opinion (2016 BiOp) providing for federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for water-related activities in the Upper and Middle Rio Grande. The 2016 BiOp culminates nearly four years of formal consultation between the FWS, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau), Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) and the State of New Mexico. A Biological Opinion is the document the FWS issues that states FWS’ opinion as to whether federal action is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. The Final 2016 BiOp concludes that water-related activities in the Upper and Middle Rio Grande will not jeopardize the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow (RGSM), southwestern flycatcher and the threatened yellow-billed cuckoo.

Building on the strengths of increased knowledge and data among the agencies and water managers over the years, the Final 2016 BiOp replaces hydrobiological objectives with RGSM survival and recovery strategies. The BA partners will continue to develop coordinated efforts to benefit the species based upon year-to-year conditions.

(Christina Bruff)