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Sticking up for stickleback

One Canyon Country resident hopes to prevent the Cemex mine with an endangered fish in the vicinity

Posted: January 4, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 4, 2013 2:00 a.m.

River's End RV Park resident Doug Lewis pokes around the edges of a small pool of Santa Clara River water.


The endangered unarmored threespine stickleback has found a friend in Chris Conlin.

Conlin phoned The Signal in response to a story about the minnow-sized fish living in a part of the Santa Clara River that’s designated as part of the proposed Cemex mine site.

“The environmentalist quoted said we need community support for a major campaign, and that all it takes is one person,” Conlin said this week. “I would like to be that one person.”

It’s not so much that Conlin loves the odd little fish but, rather, that he’s upset over the prospect of the 56-million-ton sand and gravel mine starting up in Soledad Canyon.

Stopping the mine by saving the stickleback made sense to the 50-year-old Canyon Country resident, who says he’s watched a half-century of change unfold in both the Santa Clarita Valley and the San Fernando Valley.

“I believe it’s possible to stop the mine,” he said. “I would like to fight it.”

Conlin said he doesn’t know exactly how he’s going to fight the mine and save the fish because he’s never done this type of thing before.

“I’ll go door to door if I have to,” he said, “to make people aware of this situation.”

Conlin, who until recently worked as a field service technician, traveled regularly in and out of the Santa Clarita Valley.

He moved here from the San Fernando Valley 20 years ago in part to get away from the detrimental changes he saw unfolding there.

The same year that he moved to the Santa Clarita Valley, the Bureau of Land Management issued permits for the giant mine in Soledad Canyon — the same canyon through which the Santa Clara River flows, providing habitat for the rare little fish.

Cemex, a Mexican cement mining giant that owns the permits, has not acted on them in the face of opposition from Santa Clarita Valley residents.

“I’ve watched this debate about Cemex go on and on and on,” Conlin said.

The prospect of possibly stopping the mine by saving the stickleback is at least worth some effort, he said.

The unarmored threespine stickleback was deemed endangered on Oct. 13, 1970 — long before permits were issued for the mine.

The fish lives in an 8.5-mile stretch of the Santa Clara River — some of it above ground, much of it underground — from Arrastre Canyon near Acton west to the River’s End RV park on Soledad Canyon Road, according to a 1980 application by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to have the land protected. The fish and the proposed mine share part of that area.


on Twitter @jamesarthurholt


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