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Tuesday, August 4, 2009 - 1:27pm

Controversy Over Endangered Fish

In response to mounting pressure, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials are holding a public meeting tonight in Cartersville to discuss how a plan to protect three fish species will impact land development in North Georgia and metro-Atlanta.

The Etowah Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan is so controversial, both the state senate and the house passed resolutions last session urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do a lot more research before they approved it. Lawmakers are concerned it will needlessly curb development and lessen property value.

Federal wildlife officials say the plan protects the federally endangered Etowah and Amber Darters and the threatened Cherokee Darter in the Etowah River Basin while facilitating development. Right now, they’re taking public comment until the end of the month.

In the meantime, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Scientist Eric Prowell says, there’s a need to clear the air.

"There’s a lot of concerns amongst development community about costs associated with the plan, so we saw a real need to provide accurate information, especially with all the lobbying going on providing misinformation.”

Prowell and other wildlife officials are holding community meetings, and they’ve also invited elected officials and development representatives on a canoe trip down the Etowah River scheduled this Friday.

For more information and to submit public comments: