Tennessee Snail Darter No Longer a Threatened Species

Snail darter is a small freshwater fish that has been made popular by Tennessee Valley Authority against HillThe Department of Interior declared yesterday that, was no longer endangered.

In 1975, the snail darter was listed as an endangered species. This was just a few years after its discovery. To stop TVA’s Tellico Dam project in Tennessee, opponents used the rare nature of the snail darter as an excuse to cancel the TVA’s plans. This litigation led to litigation at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declared that the ESA forbade the construction of the dam if it could alter or destroy snail darters habitat.

The Court’s Decision in TVA v. Hill, Congress created a potential work-around for important projects–the creation of a committee known as the “God Squad” that could exempt projects from the ESA’s strictures. The Tellico Dam wasn’t exempted from the ESA, so Congress decided to act at the request of a Tennessee junior Congressman and order its completion. Al Gore was that Congressman.

As it turned out, the darter might not be in so much danger of extinction after being discovered in different parts of the southeast United States. These discoveries, and successful efforts to transfer and build darter populations  in other waterways, led the FWS to downgrade the fish from from “endangered” to “threatened” in 1984. FWS says that subsequent conservation efforts contributed to the darter’s recovery.

As proof of the ESA’s ability to save species, the federal government celebrated the snail darter’s recovery. Some people aren’t convinced that the Act is effective.