LAS VEGAS— The Biden administration today denied Endangered Species Act protections to 10 rare species of Nevada springsnails, despite the dire threats of groundwater pumping and climate change faced by the tiny mollusks.
Nine of the 10 springsnails live only at the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nye County, Nevada. Ash Meadows is a groundwater-fed desert oasis, where numerous springs create a biodiversity hotspot along the Amargosa River.
Today’s move comes in response to a 2009 petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the Center for Biological Diversity, which sought protections for 42 species of springsnails across the Great Basin and Mojave Deserts.
“I’m incredibly disappointed and saddened by the Fish and Wildlife Service’s surprising denial of protections to these vulnerable springsnails,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center. “These are some of the most imperiled creatures in the Mojave Desert, and this decision really doesn’t make sense.”
Ash Meadows is home to more than two dozen species that live nowhere else on earth, including some listed under the Endangered Species Act, such as the Devils Hole pupfish and the rare Amargosa niterwort.
Ash Meadows is recognized as one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in Nevada, because of inappropriate levels of groundwater pumping in the area. Pumping water to grow alfalfa to feed cows at a dairy across the road from the wildlife refuge is forecast to cause a widespread decline in the aquifer that feeds the springs at Ash Meadows.
Recent scientific investigations by the United States Geologic Survey show that widespread aquifer drawdown in the Amargosa Basin, including from the dairy and in Pahrump Valley, threatens the groundwater dependent ecosystems at Ash Meadows.
“The science is absolutely clear that groundwater drawdown threatens spring flow at Ash Meadows, which in turn threatens unique species like these springsnails with extinction,” said Donnelly. “We’ll be reviewing the Service’s justification for this perplexing decision and evaluating our next steps. We won’t back down in our defense of the Amargosa.”