Managing an endangered species

Palliative care for the pallid sturgeon

by FREDERICK ERRINGTON and DEBORAH GEWERTZ

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The pallid sturgeon, formally listed in the United States as endangered since 1990, remains in trouble. Evolving in a free‐flowing Missouri River, this ancient fish finds itself imperiled by a system of dams regulated by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The USACE must now confront the “wicked problem” of adjusting its envirotechnical regime of water management to address not only human economic interests but also antithetical fish‐focused imperatives. To achieve a convincing balance, the USACE musters an array of bureaucratic practices that are seemingly beyond criticism. Through such practices, especially as publically performed at the quarterly meetings of the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee, the USACE affirms both itself and the envirotechnical system it incarnates as the best the fish can expect.

A pallid sturgeon being stripped of its eggs, June 8, 2016, in a hatchery breeding facility at Gavins Point, South Dakota.
A pallid sturgeon being stripped of its eggs, June 8, 2016, in a hatchery breeding facility at Gavins Point, South Dakota. (Frederick Errington)