Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 13, 2021


Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449,

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Endangered Fish From Drilling, Fracking in Nevada

LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity issued a formal notice today of its intent to sue the Bureau of Land Management for failing to protect the endangered Railroad Valley springfish from oil drilling and fracking in central Nevada.

“The Bureau of Land Management has neglected its legal obligation to protect these imperiled little fish for more than 25 years, pushing them closer to extinction,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center. “The Trump administration has doubled down in its rush to give away our public lands to its buddies in the oil industry. This disdain for the natural world is dangerous, as well as illegal.”

A 1994 biological opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires the BLM to evaluate potential harm to the endangered fish from new oil and gas projects near its habitat. The document also anticipates that the agency will protect the fish’s habitat by designating an “area of critical environmental concern.”

But the BLM has failed to institute those measures and has issued several oil and gas leases in Railroad Valley, encompassing tens of thousands of acres, without evaluating potential harm to the springfish. Dozens of oil new wells have been drilled, and at least one has been fracked.

The Railroad Valley springfish, which lives in two isolated spring systems in central Nevada’s Railroad Valley, was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1986. Substantial habitat restoration efforts have helped the springfish avoid extinction, but now it faces an existential threat from the oil industry.

An analysis by hydrologist Tom Myers shows that oil drilling and fracking could harm the springfish’s habitat by draining groundwater from the aquifers that feed the springs and potentially contaminating those aquifers with drilling or fracking fluids.

In 1934 Railroad Valley was designated as a national wildlife refuge by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But subsequent federal actions stripped it of protection, and now it’s Nevada’s leading oil- and gas-producing region.

“The Railroad Valley springfish is a cherished part of Nevada’s biodiversity,” said Donnelly. “We’re in the midst of an extinction crisis, and Nevada is on the front lines. The BLM has abdicated its responsibility to protect these fish, and I’m hoping legal action will force it to follow the law.”

Railroad Valley springfish habitat in Railroad Valley, Nevada; Photo: 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.

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