A fish native to two Kentucky counties has received protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The Cumberland darter, found in Whitley and McCreary counties and in two counties in Tennessee, was added Monday to the endangered-species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a news release from the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Arizona-based center said the fish is threatened by pollution from mountaintop-removal coal mining, sewage and agricultural runoff.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Cumberland darter "is only found in the upper Cumberland River system above Cumberland Falls. ... Historically, this species inhabited 21 streams in the upper Cumberland River system. Now, the Cumberland darter survives in short reaches of less than one mile along 12 streams."
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It is unclear what impact the protection might have on mining.
"This announcement is not surprising, but it is concerning," said Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association. "This kind of action by a federal agency cannot only result in a loss of coal production, but also salaries for workers in the area."
In 2009, Whitley County's eight underground and surface mines employed 139 miners and produced 271,000 tons of coal, according to the coal association.