For Immediate Release, October 6, 2020

Contact:

Scott Lake, (802) 299-7494, slake@biologicaldiversity.org

Rare Nevada Fish One Step Closer to Endangered Species Protection

RENO, Nev.— As a result of legal action by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to decide by Nov. 30, 2020 whether an isolated population of relict dace — a small, minnow-like fish that lives only in springs in eastern Nevada — warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The dace population, which has been isolated for thousands of years in the Johnson Springs Wetland Complex near Wells, Nevada, faces an existential threat from Nevada Gold Mines’ plan to expand the Long Canyon Mine. If the expansion goes forward as proposed, the springs would dry up entirely and the population would go extinct.

“We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service makes the right call and protects the relict dace before it’s too late,” said Scott Lake, Nevada legal advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Without protection these unique fish and the beautiful springs they depend on will be lost forever.”

In 2014 Forest Service Employees for Environment Ethics petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the fish under the Endangered Species Act due to the imminent danger of extinction from the mine. A year later the Service found that listing the dace as threatened or endangered might be warranted. To date, however, the agency has yet to issue the required 12-month finding to determine if protection is in fact warranted.

“Nevada’s springs and wetlands are irreplaceable oases that harbor species found nowhere else on Earth, but they’re constantly under threat from the gold-mining industry,” said Lake. “Only the Endangered Species Act will save the relict dace, and that’s why we’re glad to see the Fish and Wildlife Service agree to take the next steps toward listing.”

In August Nevada Gold Mines suspended its plans to expand the Long Canyon Mine, citing concerns about impacts to the springs. The suspension is temporary, however, and there are currently no concrete plans in place to protect the springs or the relict dace should the expansion plans resume. A federal listing of the fish as threatened or endangered would prohibit any activities that jeopardize the dace population’s continued existence or harm individual dace.

“Although we support the company’s decision to suspend the expansion, that decision doesn’t change the precarious situation for the relict dace,” Lake said. “As long as there’s demand for gold and groundwater in eastern Nevada, the dace will need the powerful protection of the Endangered Species Act to prevent its extinction.”

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Relict dace. Photo courtesy of USFWS. 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.