Chihuahuan Desert Native Fish Conservation Areas: A Multispecies and Watershed Approach to Preservation of Freshwater Fish Diversity
Gary P. Garrett, Timothy W. Birdsong, Megan G. Bean, and Ben J. Labay
Abstract.—Native fish conservation areas in the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas were identified and designated as part of a statewide network of focal watersheds uniquely valued in preservation of Texas freshwater fish diversity. Native fish conservation areas represent a holistic, multispecies, and habitat-based approach to native fish conservation that encourages and facilitates coordination among landowners, nongovernmental organizations, state and federal agencies, universities, and local governments to achieve landscape-scale conservation within focal watersheds. This approach to native fish conservation provides an effective method for addressing the common nature and magnitude of threats facing species and their habitats in freshwater systems. Desert fishes and their habitats are particularly susceptible to habitat alteration, especially anthropogenic land use and water consumption patterns, which continue to create conservation challenges. The strategic and science-based conservation strategies embodied by the native fish conservation areas approach represent an innovative path forward for addressing the conservation needs of native fishes and their habitats in the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas. In this chapter, we describe six native fish conservation areas designated within the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas and profile multiagency conservation planning and delivery that has substantially increased the scope and scale of conservation investments for restoration and protection of native fishes and their habitats in the region.