For Immediate Release, May 17, 2021

Contact:

Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449, pdonnelly@biologicaldiversity.org

Agreement Sets Swift Timeline for Federal Government’s Decisions on Tiehm’s Buckwheat Protection

LAS VEGAS, Nev.— The Center for Biological Diversity and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reached an agreement today that requires the agency to decide by May 31 whether Nevada’s rare Tiehm’s buckwheat warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act. The agreement is the result of litigation by the Center and a recent ruling by a federal judge that the Service must make a determination on protections for the imperiled plant.

The agreement requires the Service to issue three decisions within less than a year. It first must issue a 12-month finding of whether Tiehm’s buckwheat is warranted or not warranted for protection by May 31. If listing is warranted, a proposed rule must be offered no later than Sept. 30. Finally, the latest a proposed critical habitat rule could be published would be May 2, 2022.

Tiehm’s buckwheat is threatened by an open-pit lithium mine proposed by an Australian mining company, Ioneer Corp. The mine would destroy most of the remaining global habitat for the species.

“Tiehm’s buckwheat is staring down the barrel of extinction,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center. “The lifesaving protections of the Endangered Species Act are critical to keep this wildflower from being wiped out by a proposed mine. We look forward to Fish and Wildlife Service doing the right thing and swiftly giving this special wildflower the protection it deserves.”

Today’s agreement comes on the heels of the Service asking for an emergency alteration or amendment to the judge’s April 21, 2019 ruling that held that the plant’s situation qualifies as an “emergency posing a significant risk to the well-being.”

The Center brought a lawsuit after the Service failed to meet legally required deadlines to respond to the organization’s 2019 Endangered Species Act petition to protect the wildflower. The buckwheat’s plight was only heightened after an incident of unprecedented destruction resulted in the loss of more than 40% of the plant’s population.

“After the heartbreaking loss of nearly half the species last year, Tiehm’s buckwheat can’t afford agency foot-dragging,” said Allison Melton, an attorney at the Center. “This agreement ensures that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will give its ‘highest priority’ listing decision the attention it needs and sets the framework for no further delay.”

The Center is represented by in-house counsel and by Chris Mixson of Kemp Jones, LLP.

Tiehm’s buckwheat (Eriogonum tiehmii). Photo credit: Patrick Donnelly, Center for Biological Diversity
Tiehm’s buckwheat (Eriogonum tiehmii). Photo credit: Patrick Donnelly, Center for Biological Diversity. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.