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For Immediate Release, April 11, 2011

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681 

Two Arizona Springsnail Species Proposed for Federal Protection

TUCSON, Ariz.— Two Arizona springsnails were proposed for Endangered Species Act protection today, along with proposed critical habitat, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Three Forks springsnail is found at only two spring complexes, in Apache County on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in the White Mountains, and was petitioned for federal protection by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2004. The San Bernardino springsnail occurs at only two to three springs on a private ranch in Cochise County. It was petitioned for federal protection by WildEarth Guardians in 2007. Both species were recently discovered, first described by a scientific expert in 1994.

“These two Arizona springsnail species need Endangered Species Act protection to survive, and we hope the Obama administration finalizes their listing as soon as possible,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist with the Center.

There are only two known populations of Three Forks springsnail, and one of them has declined severely, with only three individuals detected during the most recent survey (in 2008). Two of the three populations of San Bernardino springsnail are also perilously small. The snails are threatened by groundwater depletion, pollution from fire-retardant chemicals and pesticides, damage to springs from elk, and predation by nonnative crayfish.

The Three Forks springsnail is less than one-fifth of an inch long and lives in very shallow, high-elevation springs in open mountain meadows. The San Bernardino springsnail is less than one-tenth of an inch long, with a narrow conic shell, and occurs in fast-flowing springs with rocky bottoms. The proposed critical habitat for the Three Forks springsnail is 11.1 acres on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Apache County; the proposed critical habitat for the San Bernardino springsnail is two acres on a private ranch in Cochise County.

The Three Forks springsnail has been a candidate for federal protection since 2001. Candidates are species recognized by government scientists to need federal protection to avoid extinction that have been placed, despite this urgent need, on a “warranted-but-precluded” waiting list that offers no protection. President Barack Obama’s Interior Department has used the “warranted-but-precluded” designation for 24 species — more than any other administration. Today, there are 260 candidates on the backlogged waiting list.

To date, the Obama government has only given Endangered Species Act protection to 59 species. In contrast, President Clinton protected 522 species under the Endangered Species Act, and the first Bush administration protected 232 species.

“We are relieved to see the Obama administration propose these species for protection instead of risking their extinction by relegating them to the doomsday ‘candidate’ list. To avert the extinction crisis our country is facing, the government needs to protect all candidate species,” said Curry.

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