The Arctic grayling, a freshwater fish, is not in enough danger to be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today. Conservation efforts based in Montana have been enough to help bring the fish out of endangerment, a press release from the USDA says.

The fish's population was previously critically low in the Upper Missouri River Distinct Population Segment. The Upper Missouri River runs through the state of Montana. After the past eight years of significant conservation efforts, aided by private landowners who cooperated on a volunteer basis, the federal organization has ruled today, August 18, that the efforts of conservation agencies and others to help the Arctic grayling population thrive have been enough to bring the fish significantly out of danger, enough that it no longer needs the protection of the ESA for the present time. The fish will no longer be classified as endangered under the ESA.

Private owners of land voluntarily worked with federal agencies through a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances to improve conditions for the Arctic grayling. The CCAA has helped start over 250 conservation projects to protect the grayling in the past eight years. They have done things like improving irrigation techniques that affect waters where the fish live to improve the grayling's habitat. The grayling's population has at least doubled since 2006 because of the CCAA's efforts.

"This is a prime example of what a CCAA can do, not only for wildlife, but also for sustaining the way of life in rural ranching community," said Service Director Dan Ashe in a USDA press release. "The conservation progress for Arctic grayling would not have been possible without the amazing support we have received from willing landowners and other partners in the Big Hole River and Centennial valleys."

In the press release, Ashe praised the way citizens had come together to protect the grayling, and said that the fish was in good hands and no longer needed ESA protection.

He said that the state would continue to protect the Arctic grayling and other wildlife species, and help them to thrive in coming years.

"The conservation of grayling in the Big Hole Valley is arguably one of the most significant conservation success stories in the nation," Jeff Hagener, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said. He called it a historic day, and thanked the private landowners who cooperated for their participation in helping the grayling.

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