The Nature Conservancy
4245 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203
October 16, 2000
Mr. Robert Rice
The Native Fish Conservancy
3635 NW 68th Lane
Gainesville, FL 32653
Dear Mr. Rice
Thank you so much for your interest in The Nature Conservancy’s freshwater conservation work. We deeply appreciate your interest in potentially supporting one of our projects that supports of the Native Fish Conservancy’s mission.
As you know, the United States is a global center of freshwater biodiversity. Although most of the world’s freshwater fish species are tropical, the United States, with 801 species, ranks seventh among countries in the world in record fish species-after Brazil, Venezuela, Indonesia, China, Zaire, and Peru. In contrast, only 193 freshwater fish species are known from all the countries of Europe and 188 species from the continent of Australia.
A recent analysis of state Natural Heritage Program data revealed that freshwater species as a whole are much more imperiled than terrestrial species: 303 fish species, or 37 percent of the U.S. freshwater fish fauna, are at risk of extinction and 17 species have already gone extinct.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is an international, nonprofit, conservation organization whose mission is to preserve plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. TNC is best known for its work in land conservation and the protection of terrestrial species. We have had great success on this front, owning and managing the world’s largest system of private nature preserves.
Over the past decade, we have recognized that to accomplish our biodiversity mission, we must increase our emphasis on aquatic environments. Further, we believe that our science-based, non-confrontational approach to conservation can be especially effective in addressing complex water resources issues. Our decentralized field structure also is a key to this effort because our local presence allows us to work effectively with our neighbors—integrating conservation strategies within the larger fabric of community life and values.
TNC is in the middle of a 5-year organization-wide Freshwater Initiative, designed to greatly increase protection of the biological diversity of rivers and lakes in the Americas. Launched in July 1998, the FWI involves the participation of field teams at 40 sites within the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean—and a small core operation that is intended to energize and support freshwater conservation activities at those sites. The Initiative is intended to build the capacity of the Conservancy and its partners to meet the challenge of freshwater conservation over the long term.
We believe that our work at these sites is consistent with the mission of the Native Fish Conservancy—“to operate as a nonpartisan, nonprofit tax-exempt organization for the advancement of educational and scientific programs and initiatives concerning native fishes.” We respectfully request that the Native Fish Conservancy consider supporting one of our 40 high priority projects. We selected the following two projects, which may be of particular interest to the Native Fish Conservancy:
· Conasauga River, Tennessee and Georgia—The Conasauga, which flows from the Blue Ridge Mountains in northwest Georgia into Tennessee, is home to 24 rare and imperiled aquatic species, including 12 that are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act. Among these are a number of rare fishes, including the holiday darter (Etheostoma brevirostrum), the blue shiner (Cyprinella caerulea), and the endangered Conasauga logperch (Percina jenkinsi). The upper and middle portions of the watershed are generally in good condition, although local agricultural and forestry practices contribute sedimentation and some nonpoint source pollution that pose threats to these species. The lower portion of the river is troubled by serious water quality and water flow issues, related mainly to the nation’s largest center of carpet manufacturing, which is critical to the local economy. The Conservancy, which is part of the Conasauga River Alliance, a partnership of local citizens, conservation groups, businesses, and government agencies, is helping to “maintain a clean and beautiful Conasauga River—forever.” Within this community partnership, we are working to better understand the ecological requirements of native species, continue to engage the local community in addressing water quality issues, and support compatible economic development within the watershed.
· Green River, Kentucky—Kentucky’s upper Green River is the most biologically rich branch remaining of the Ohio River System. Although its headwaters are impounded, the river flows unhindered for a 100-mile stretch through eight counties and Mammoth Cave National Park, the world’s largest cave system. The Green River boasts 71 mussel species and more than 150 fish species, including the rare northern cavefish (Amblyopsis spelaea), spotted darter (Etheostoma maculatum), and tippecanoe darter (Etheostoma tippecanoe). Although the Green River is generally in good condition, dams on the river impede upstream movement of fishes and alter the natural hydrologic regime. In addition, local agricultural practices have caused loss of riparian vegetation, bank destabilization and localized sedimentation problems. The Nature Conservancy is involved in a ground-breaking cooperative effort with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to explore dam operation modifications that will both meet traditional water management objectives and protect the Green River ecosystem. We also are working closely with local landowners to establish best management practices along the Green and its tributaries including maintenance and planting of riparian corridors. We are committed to a program of ecological monitoring and research that will support an ecologically-sound program of adaptive management on the Green River.
We hope that these projects are on target with your organization’s interests, and we would be pleased to provide any additional detail on them that you may require. We certainly would also be delighted to offer additional projects for your consideration.
We deeply appreciate your organization’s commitment to the conservation of native fishes as well as your interest in supporting The Nature Conservancy’s freshwater conservation work. Should you have any questions or require additional information, please contact me at XXXXXXXX
Deputy Director, Freshwater Initiative