For Immediate Release,
March 29, 2021
LAS VEGAS— Conservationists submitted a petition to the Bureau of Land Management today nominating 4,015 acres of surrounding habitat for the rare plant Tiehm’s buckwheat as an “area of critical environmental concern.” This includes a one-mile buffer zone and would give the highly imperiled plant new management protection.
Tiehm’s buckwheat is a small, white wildflower that lives on just 10 acres of public land in the Rhyolite Ridge area of western Nevada’s Silver Peak Range. The plant’s habitat is entirely within the footprint of a lithium mine, proposed by the Australian mining company Ioneer, that could drive it to extinction.
“Ioneer’s mine would destroy Tiehm’s buckwheat habitat,” Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This rare little flower is staring down the barrel of extinction. We’re asking the Biden administration to ensure its habitat is preserved for future generations.”
The BLM has recognized the need for protecting Tiehm’s buckwheat habitat in the past. In 1998 it issued a notice of intent to amend its resource-management plan to designate 42 special management areas, including one at Rhyolite Ridge. But it never followed through, and the buckwheat remains unprotected.
In 2019 the Center and Dr. Naomi Fraga of the California Botanic Garden petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect Tiehm’s buckwheat under the Endangered Species Act. The Center sued in 2020, after the agency failed to respond by the required deadlines.
Dr. Fraga and more than other 100 scientists, 15 conservation and botanical organizations, and three Nevada politicians sent a letter urging the Biden administration to “take urgent and decisive action to immediately protect Tiehm’s buckwheat under the Endangered Species Act.”
“BLM recognized that the habitat of Tiehm’s buckwheat needed to be protected 23 years ago,” said Fraga. “The scientific community agrees that the federal government should do everything possible to protect this fragile wildflower from extinction. We need the BLM to step up to the plate and protect Tiehm’s buckwheat before we lose it forever.”