How Albuquerque learned about the Endangered Species Act listing of the Rio Grande silvery minnow

The Rio Grande silvery minnow is kind of a big deal in understanding 21st century management of New Mexico’s Middle Rio Grande. So it was hilarious to me to look back at the initial public announcement of its 1994 Endangered Species Act listing.

The community first learned of it on page C6 of the Aug. 19, 1994 Albuquerque Journal. In the “Outdoor Notes” column:

The Rio Grande Silvery Minnow will officially become an endangered species today, reports the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The minnow is found in the Rio Grande between Cochiti Dam and the headwaters of Elephant Butte Reservoir, says Hans Stuart, public affairs officer for the service.

The listing means the agency will be working with water-management agencies to ensure the survival of the minnow is a consideration in their activities, Stuart says.

Anglers who use minnows from the Rio Grande for bait will need to recognize the species and return them to the river. Under the Endangered Species Act, the minnow is protected from collecting or harming. (emphasis added)

A note on methodology

OK, for Middle Valley water nerds, that’s kinda funny. “Anglers? The first thing the Journal thought to ask about was the impact on fishing?” But this is a great example of a methodological insight drawn from my own life as a newspaper guy writing stuff like that, which has become a methodological insight for my approach to the new book Bob Berrens and I are writing: Ribbons of Green: The Rio Grande and the Making of a Modern American City.

The first thing we do when confronted with the new is figure out how to conceptually slot it into the old. I’m pretty sure fishing was the last thing on the minds of the folks at those “water-management agencies”. But as a newspaper reporter, I was always struggled mightily to think, “What do my readers already know, and how can I hook this new thing into that old body of knowledge?”

This is admissible evidence that whoever was writing the “Outdoor Notes” column that day expected their readers would think of minnows as bait fish.

One Comment

  1. Great tidbit. From a fellow silvery-minnow-enthusiast-plus-former-journalist…what a strange and somehow delightful angle (pun intended) for such a news story. When the ESA goes whimsical.

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