The Arizona Game and Fish Department said this week that it is seeking to upgrade from “endangered” to “threatened” a tiny fish that was found in 2005 in the Santa Cruz River near Nogales for the first time in a decade.

In a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May 2018, AZGFD said, it reported that Gila topminnow populations can now be found in multiple locations within the species’ range, which includes the Gila River basin from western New Mexico to central and western Arizona, as well as the Santa Cruz River.

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documented the petition as “substantiated” in its 90-day finding, AZGFD said. The federal agency has since initiated a status review and will issue a 12-month finding to address whether reclassifying Gila topminnow to “threatened” – or even delisting – is warranted under the Endangered Species Act. The fish has been listed as an endangered species since 1967.

Conservation efforts by AZGFD and its partners, as well as upgrades to the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant in Rio Rico, have been credited for the topminnow’s resurgence in the local stretch of the Santa Cruz River.

Friends of the Santa Cruz River, an organization that has been active in the conservation effort, declined to comment on the proposed reduction in protection status for the Gila topminnow, saying it preferred to wait for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review.

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