The native fish fauna of the lower Colorado River, in the western United States, includes four “big-river” fishes that are federally listed as endangered. Existing recovery implementation plans are inadequate for these critically imperiled species. We describe a realistic, proactive management program founded on demographic and genetic principles and crafted to avoid potential conflicts with nonnative sport fisheries. In this program, native species would breed and their progeny grow in isolated, protected, off-channel habitats in the absence of nonnative fishes. Panmictic adult populations would reside in the main channel and connected waters, exchanging reproductive adults and repatriated subadults with populations occupying isolated habitats. Implementation of the plan would greatly enhance recovery potential of the four listed fishes.
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