For Immediate Release, October 30, 2019

Contact:

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

Lawsuit Aims to Protect Rare Nevada Wildflower From Exploratory Mining

LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration today to protect the world’s only population of Tiehm’s buckwheat (Eriogonum tiehmii) from harm related to mineral exploration and a proposed open-pit mine.

Tiehm’s buckwheat is a rare desert wildflower found only on 21 acres of public land in the remote Silver Peak Range of Esmerelda County, Nevada. With beautiful white flowers and prolific seed production, it is one of the few plants to grow in the highly mineralized soil to which it is adapted.

“The Trump administration is ignoring laws protecting rare species like this beautiful flower to give our public lands away to a mining company,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center. “The administration has a duty to prevent Tiehm’s buckwheat from going extinct. We’re going to court to make sure that Trump and the Bureau of Land Management obey the law and protect this remarkable little plant.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, challenges the BLM’s decision to approve two exploration projects for the proposed mine as separate operations. In doing so the BLM avoided federal requirements to perform an environmental review and get public input. The exploration projects barely sneak in under the acreage limits for this exception and, when combined, are well over the five acres that triggers review and public comment requirements.

Ioneer, an Australian mineral company, has been conducting exploration activities in the buckwheat’s habitat, including grading new roads and well pads and drilling test wells.

The company has already bulldozed a road into three of the six populations of buckwheat, which may have irreversibly severed the plant’s reproductive connectivity.

Long-term plans call for an open-pit mine to produce lithium and boron. The proposed mine’s project area includes the entire area where Tiehm’s buckwheat is known to grow.

The BLM has designated the wildflower as a special status species, intended to promote its conservation and reduce its chances of being listed as threatened or endangered.

“This delicate wildflower plays an integral role in the desert ecosystem by stabilizing soils and dispersing seeds,” said Donnelly. “It’s wrong for the BLM to allow mining companies to destroy its habitat while other agencies are deciding whether to list the flower as endangered. We won’t let it be erased from the planet for a quick buck.”

Earlier this month the Center submitted an emergency petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect Tiehm’s buckwheat under the Endangered Species Act. The Center also submitted a petition to the Nevada Division of Forestry to protect the plant. The agency has authority under state law to protect “various species of flora which are threatened with extinction.”

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 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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