Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 1, 2020


Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449,

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Delay in Protecting Rare Nevada Fish

RENO, Nev.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for unlawfully delaying action on a petition to protect a population of small, minnow-like fish under the Endangered Species Act.

The relict dace population, which has been isolated for thousands of years in the Johnson Springs Wetland Complex near Wells, Nevada, faces an existential threat from Newmont Mining Corporation’s plan to expand the Long Canyon gold mine. If the expansion goes forward, the springs would dry up entirely and the population would go extinct.

In 2014 Forest Service Employees for Environment Ethics petitioned the Service to protect the fish under the Endangered Species Act due to the imminent danger of extinction from the mine. In 2015 the Service found that listing the dace as threatened or endangered may be warranted. Five years later, however, the agency has yet to issue the required 12-month finding to determine if protection is in fact warranted.

“Nevada’s springs and wetlands are epicenters of the biodiversity that make Nevada so special, but gold mining companies are drying them up and killing off our native species,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center. “Only the Endangered Species Act can save the relict dace, but the Trump administration is again violating the law by refusing to evaluate the fish for protection.”

The relict dace lives in just a handful of isolated springs in four basins in northeast Nevada. Biologists have found that each population is, to varying degrees, genetically and morphologically distinct. As a result, the Service was asked in the petition to protect the Johnson Springs Wetland Complex population of relict dace as a “distinct population segment” in recognition of its unique characteristics and habitat.

Johnson Springs Wetland Complex is a regionally important water source in northeast Nevada. In addition to the dace, Johnson Springs sustains populations of mule deer, pronghorn, elk, sage grouse, migratory birds, waterfowl, and many butterfly species. Newmont’s own data shows that groundwater pumping required for the mine expansion would completely dry up the springs, decimating all wildlife that rely on it, including the unique population of relict dace.

“Nevada is the driest state in the union,” said Donnelly. “Our water resources are too precious to waste on mining so out-of-state shareholders can profit. This little fish has every right to continue living where it has for thousands of years. That’s what we’re fighting for.”

Relict dace. Photo courtesy of USFWS. 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.

center locations