Bumper Sticker

The Devils Hole pupfish, Cyprinodon diabolis, was classified as endangered in 1967. It was one of the first fish protected under the Endangered Species Protection Act of 1966.  President Harry Truman declared Devils Hole a detached unit of Death Valley National Monument in 1952, due to the scientific interest of the fish and their desert spring habitat.  When the population began to precipitously decline in the late 1960s and 1970s, as a result of agricultural groundwater development in the area, the Department of the Interior brought suit.  On June 7th, 1976, the Supreme Court decided in Cappaert v. United States that because Devils Hole was set aside to preserve the pupfish, and the senior water right was held by the Department of the Interior, water in the hole must be maintained at a level sufficient to preserve the site’s scientific value in the form of a healthy pupfish population.

In the years leading up to this landmark legal decision, media attention and divergent local sentiments highlighted the perennial clash between economic development and environmental preservation.  Two popular bumper stickers at the time were “Save the Pupfish” and “Kill the Pupfish.”

Enforcement of the Supreme Court decision led to a recovery in water level and fish numbers for more than a decade.  However, a mysterious population decline began in the mid-1990s, which scientists are still trying to decipher and mitigate today. 

Paper, plastic. L 44, H 10 cm
Death Valley National Park, DEVA 53686