For Immediate Release, April 21, 2021

Contact:

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

Legal Victory Compels Federal Government to Decide on Tiehm’s Buckwheat Protections

Judge Calls Nevada Wildflower’s Situation ‘Emergency’ Warranting Swift Action

RENO, Nev.— As a result of litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity, a federal judge ruled today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide whether or not to protect Nevada’s rare Tiehm’s buckwheat under the Endangered Species Act.

The Center brought a lawsuit after the Service failed to meet legally required deadlines to respond to the organization’s 2019 Endangered Species Act petition to protect the wildflower. Tiehm’s buckwheat is threatened by an open-pit lithium mine proposed by an Australian mining company, Ioneer Corp. The mine would destroy most of the global habitat for the species, putting it on a path to extinction.

The buckwheat’s plight was only heightened after an incident of unprecedented destruction resulted in the loss of more than 40% of the plant’s population.

U.S. District of Nevada Judge James C. Mahan ruled that the Service must issue an endangered species listing decision within 30 days, saying that the plant’s situation qualifies as an “emergency posing a significant risk to the well-being” of Tiehm’s buckwheat.

“We’re thrilled a federal judge agrees that Tiehm’s buckwheat is facing a dire emergency,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center. “This is one of the most endangered plants in the United States. The federal government now has to follow through and protect this species before Ioneer’s mine drives it to extinction.”

Tiehm’s buckwheat is a narrow endemic wildflower that grows on just 10 acres of public land in the Silver Peak Range of western Nevada. Only a few inches tall with creamy white blossoms, the species is specially adapted to mineralized soils, which contain high levels of lithium and boron.

Ioneer’s proposed Rhyolite Ridge lithium mine would destroy as much as 60% of the global population of Tiehm’s buckwheat during phase one and up to 90% in phase two.

In recent years a campaign under the banner of #TeamBuckwheat has emerged, as scientists and biodiversity lovers became concerned for the fate of the species. More than 100 scientists, 15 conservation groups and three Nevada politicians wrote a January letter urging the Biden administration to protect Tiehm’s buckwheat under the Endangered Species Act.

“Tiehm’s buckwheat is an emblem of the remarkable biodiversity that makes Nevada such a special place,” said Dr. Naomi Fraga, a botanist who has led the scientific community’s response to the Tiehm’s buckwheat crisis. “Now that a judge has ruled the Service must act, I feel they have no choice but to protect this plant under the Endangered Species Act. It clearly qualifies, and without those protections, it will be on a path to extinction.”

The Center was represented by in-house counsel and by Chris Mixson of Kemp Jones, LLP.

RSTiehm's_Buckwheat_Flower_Patrick_Donnelly_Center_FPWC.jpg
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 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.