For Immediate Release, July 7, 2023
Patrick Donnelly, Center for Biological Diversity, (702) 483-0449, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawsuit Targets Mine Drilling at Nevada’s Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
Drilling Threatens Dozens of Species Including Endangered Pupfish
LAS VEGAS, Nev.— Conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management today challenging the agency’s approval of exploratory mineral drilling near the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
Rover Metals, a Canadian mining exploration company, has proposed drilling 30 boreholes on public lands just north of Ash Meadows to conduct exploration for a possible lithium mine. Some of the proposed drill sites are less than 2,000 feet from springs in the refuge that form critical habitat for endangered pupfish and other endangered and endemic species.
“Ash Meadows is an irreplaceable treasure and it’s utterly appalling that the Bureau of Land Management would let a Canadian mining company trash it with drilling,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re doing everything we can to save Ash Meadows and stop the agency’s drill-anywhere mentality from destroying this beloved wildlife refuge along with the plants and animals that depend on it to survive.”
Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, says the BLM violated federal law by failing to require an environmental review or consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over potential harm to endangered species. There has been no public comment period or public meetings. The lawsuit asks a judge to pause drilling and order the BLM to protect endangered species and conduct an environmental review.
Ash Meadows is a lush oasis in the Mojave Desert where dozens of springs form expansive wetlands. The wildlife refuge harbors 25 species of fish, plants, insects and snails that are found nowhere else on Earth. Twelve of these species are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The United Nations has designated the refuge a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from community members that they don’t want lithium mining at Ash Meadows,” said Mason Voehl, executive director of the Amargosa Conservancy. “Our organization was founded to defend the Amargosa River. We’ve never joined a lawsuit before, but we’re taking this extraordinary step today in recognition of the extraordinary threat faced by Ash Meadows.”
The Amargosa Conservancy has been a leading voice for conservation in the Amargosa Basin since its founding almost 20 years ago. Ash Meadows is one of the oases along the Amargosa River, one of the most biodiverse places in North America.
The group and local communities submitted a letter to BLM this week urging it to require an environmental review for the project. They also submitted a petition to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning with more than 1,200 signatures opposing the project.
The lawsuit says BLM’s approval of the project would result in “unnecessary and undue degradation” of public lands resources and potentially catastrophic threats to endangered species.
“We need lithium as a part of our transition off of fossil fuels, but it can’t come at the expense of biodiversity or our most precious protected areas,” said Donnelly. “Some places have to be off-limits to resource extraction, and Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is at the top of the list. We’re taking this action to save Ash Meadows.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Roger Flynn of the Western Mining Action Project and the Center's attorneys.
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.
The Amargosa Conservancy is a Nevada and California nonprofit organization dedicated to working towards a sustainable future for the Amargosa Basin through science, stewardship and advocacy.