For Immediate Release, May 19, 2020

Contact:

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

Nevada Urged to Protect Rare Wildflower As Mine Permitting Ramps Up

Lithium Mine Would Drive Tiehm’s Buckwheat Extinct

LAS VEGAS— Ten conservation groups and a renowned botanist urged the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources today to immediately review whether the imperiled Tiehm’s buckwheat wildflower should be protected under state law. The department agreed to protect it more than six months ago.

The groups’ letter to the department comes as the Australian mining company Ioneer pushes forward on its proposed Rhyolite Ridge mine. The open-pit lithium mine would encompass the entire habitat of the rare Nevada wildflower. In recent weeks the mining company released a feasibility study and submitted an operations plan to state and federal regulators.

“State officials committed to evaluating this special little wildflower for protection, but they’ve dragged their feet,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Tiehm’s buckwheat is staring down the barrel of extinction. We need Gov. Sisolak to step up and protect this emblem of Nevada’s irreplaceable biodiversity.”

Tiehm’s buckwheat is a six-inch tall perennial wildflower with cream-to-gold colored flowers. It lives only in highly mineralized soils in the Rhyolite Ridge area of western Nevada’s Silver Peak Range. The entire species lives on under 21 acres and numbers between 20,000 and 40,000 plants.

In October the Center and desert botanist Dr. Naomi Fraga submitted a petition to the Nevada Division of Forestry to protect the plant under the state’s list of “fully protected species declared to be threatened with extinction.” They also submitted a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for federal protection.

In March the department announced public meetings to discuss possible protections for the plant, but the meetings were postponed due to COVID-19.

“This delicate little wildflower is an emblem of what makes Nevada such a special place,” said Donnelly. “Without immediate protection Tiehm’s buckwheat is doomed to extinction. The conservation community is pleading with Gov. Sisolak to honor the state’s commitment to evaluate this plant for protection before it’s too late.”

The letter was signed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter, Great Basin Resource Watch, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Sunrise Movement Las Vegas, Western Watersheds Project, Environment Nevada, WildEarth Guardians, Basin and Range Watch and botanist Dr. Naomi Fraga.

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 Images are 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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