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For Immediate Release, June 6, 2011

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360

Critical Habitat Protected for Four Species of Endangered Snails, Freshwater Shrimp

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it is designating 76 acres in eastern New Mexico and 61 acres in western Texas as final, protected critical habitat for three federally endangered aquatic snails and a freshwater shrimp: the Roswell springsnail, Koster’s springsnail and Pecos assiminea, which are all snails, and a crustacean called Noel’s amphipod.

“This protected habitat is great news for these rare creatures, found in only a few wet spots in the desert,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s vital to preserve the clean waters that support this and other wildlife in an increasingly hot and dry world.”

It was the Center’s 2001 settlement agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service that led to these animals’ placement on the endangered species list in 2005 and to the designation, at that time, of 397 acres in Texas for their critical habitat.

The new designation protects:

  • 73.2 acres on the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico for Noel’s amphipod, the Roswell springsnail and Koster’s springsnail;
  • 2.8 acres that includes both refuge land and land owned by the city of Roswell, N.M., adjacent to the refuge, where Noel’s amphipod and Koster’s springsnail have recently been documented; and
  • 61.4 acres in Diamond Y spring complex in Pecos County, Texas, for the Pecos assiminea. This is in addition to 380 acres designated here for the Pecos assiminea in 2005.

It also reduces a critical habitat area that was designated in 2005 in the East Sandia spring complex of Reeves County, Texas, by 13.5 acres, due to more precise mapping of the area that is wet and capable of supporting Pecos assiminea.

The primary threats to all four invertebrates are groundwater pumping and depletion for irrigation as well as potential contamination of the pure water on which they depend. Diamond Y Spring is the last major spring still flowing in Pecos County, the others having been pumped dry. Yet, the area is crisscrossed with oil and gas pipelines, includes nearby brine pits and a gas refinery plant is a mere half-mile away.

Active natural-gas extraction as well as irrigated agriculture and application of fertilizers and pesticides occurs on Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge itself, as well as within the watershed that drains into the wetlands on the refuge.

Today’s critical habitat rule states: “Because these invertebrate species are sensitive to contaminants, efforts to clean up pollution after the aquifer has been contaminated may not be sufficient to protect these species and the aquatic habitat on which they depend.”

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