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For Immediate Release, December 16, 2011

Contacts:  Scott Hoffman Black, Xerces Society, (503) 449-3792
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495

Rare Stonefly, Found Only in Glacier National Park and Threatened by Melting Glaciers,
Moves One Step Closer to Protection

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont. In response to a scientific petition from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today determined that the western glacier stonefly, an aquatic insect facing extinction from accelerated glacial melt spurred by climate change, may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The western glacier stonefly, known from only five small streams on the east side of the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park, is dependent on extremely cold glacial meltwater for its survival. The park’s glaciers are predicted to disappear as early as 2030 as a result of climate change, and with them this unique invertebrate.

“Without major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, researchers predict that more than one-third of all plants and animals will go extinct by 2050,” said Sarah Foltz Jordan, a conservation associate with The Xerces Society. “This species is just one more example of why we need to address climate change before it is too late.”

Since 1900, the mean annual temperature in Glacier National Park has increased by about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit — nearly two times the global mean temperature increase. Of the estimated 150 glaciers in the park in 1850, only 25 currently remain, and these are continuing to shrink.

“The loss of glaciers in Glacier National Park makes clear that climate change is happening now,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The impending loss of the western glacier stonefly is a harbinger of change that will result in the loss of millions of species, disruption of food production, loss of water storage in mountain glaciers, flooding of coastal areas and other impacts that threaten our very way of life.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service will now conduct a status review of the stonefly to determine if protection is warranted. One goal of the status review is to determine that the stonefly, which has not been collected since 1979, still survives.

Stoneflies are excellent indicators of the health of their freshwater habitats. Extremely sensitive to changes in water quality, they are among the first organisms to disappear from degraded rivers and streams and play a significant role in many aquatic ecosystems, decomposing leaves and other organic material and forming the base of the food chain. Fly fishers have long recognized the important role stoneflies play in providing nutrients for fish. Despite their importance, these insects are one of the most imperiled groups of animals in North America: More than 40 percent of all stoneflies are vulnerable to extinction.

To learn more about the western glacier stonefly, go to:

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