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Originally published in hardback in 1991.
In 1962 the Green River was poisoned and its native fishes killed so that the new Flaming Gorge Reservoir could be stocked with non-native game fishes for sportsmen. This incident was representative of water management in the West, where dams and other projects have been built to serve human needs without consideration for the effects of water diversion or depletion on the ecosystem. Indeed, it took a Supreme Court decision in 1976 to save Devils Hole pupfish from habitat destruction at the hands of developers.
Nearly a third of the native fish fauna of North America lives in the arid West; Battle Against Extinction traces their decline toward extinction as a result of human interference and the threat to their genetic diversity posed by decreases in their populations. What can be done to slow or end this tragedy? As the most comprehensive treatment ever attempted on the subject, Battle Against Extinction shows how conservation efforts have been or can be used to reverse these trends.
In covering fishes in arid lands west of the Mississippi Valley, the contributors provide a species-by-species appraisal of their status and potential for recovery, bringing together in one volume nearly all of the scattered literature on western fishes to produce a monumental work in conservation biology. They also ponder ethical considerations related to the issue, ask why conservation efforts have not proceeded at a proper pace, and suggest how native fish protection relates to other aspects of biodiversity planetwide. Their insights will allow scientific and public agencies to evaluate future management of these animal populations and will offer additional guidance for those active in water rights and conservation biology.
Wendell L. Minckley is a professor of zoology at Arizona State University and has worked as a senior fishery biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is also the author of Fishes of Arizona and of more than one hundred other papers on fishes and aquatic systems in deserts.
James E. Deacon is a distinguished professor and former chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has published more than seventy papers on the biology and conservation of desert fishes.
"Minckley and Deacon, inarguably two of the most influential western ichthyologists, have done an excellent job [...] [A]n essential addition to the library of anyone concerned with conservation of native fishes, [Battle Against Extinction] provides a detailed historical review of research and management programs in a single source and serves as a prospectus for future conservation efforts."
"A good balance between the historical, ethical, legal, and technical issues of conservation of endangered species and southwestern desert fish, in particular [...] This book is recommended to the professional fisheries biologist, aquatic biologists, science historians, and environmental policymakers. It could provide the information that guides us to a more effective template for management and preservation of endangered fish species."
– Quarterly Review of Biology
"[Battle Against Extinction] is far more than a plea for conservation of natural aquatic habitats and fishes. It deals as well with the philosophy and ethics of conservation, and the need to document both failures and successes of the past as guidelines to the future. Most importantly, it thrusts a little-understood group of animals before the public eye in an ecosystem context and presents positive recommendations for maintenance of biodiversity through their conservation."
– Stewart L. Udall, former United States Secretary of the Interior
"An exceptional introduction to a major biological crisis."
– Wild Earth