For Immediate Release, January 11, 2021

Contact:

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

Scientists, Conservation Groups, Politicians Urge Biden Administration to Immediately Protect Tiehm’s Buckwheat

Rare Nevada Wildflower Needs Immediate Protection to Avoid Extinction

LAS VEGAS— More than 100 scientists, 15 conservation and botany groups, and three prominent Nevada politicians urged the incoming Biden administration today to immediately protect the rare wildflower Tiehm’s buckwheat under the Endangered Species Act.

“If no action is taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the next few months, then this species will be on a perilous path toward extinction,” said the letter to Biden, signed by scientists and conservationists from across the country.

Tiehm’s buckwheat is threatened by an open-pit lithium mine that would destroy almost all its natural habitat in Nevada’s Silver Peak Range. In late summer 2020, catastrophic and suspicious incidents wiped out more than half of the global population, putting the species at imminent risk of extinction. The cause of the destruction is still unclear, so the risk of further harm to the wildflower remains.

“The scientific and conservation community is sending an urgent warning to the Biden administration. Without immediate action, Tiehm’s buckwheat will go extinct,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Trump administration kowtowed to the mining industry and allowed this beautiful wildflower to reach the brink of extinction, in clear violation of the Endangered Species Act. We need the Biden administration to act quickly.”

In October 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, citing the existential threat to the species from the proposed open-pit mine. In July 2020 the Service found that the petition presented substantial scientific evidence warranting full evaluation of listing under the Act.

After the destruction was discovered in September 2020, the Center again petitioned the Service to immediately list the plant using the Act’s emergency listing provisions. The agency failed to respond to the petition, prompting the Center to sue in November 2020.

The Center and Fraga also petitioned the state to protect the wildflower under its own endangered species law. After conducting public meetings over the summer during which dozens of people spoke in favor of protection, the state has failed to act to protect the plant, leaving Tiehm’s buckwheat without meaningful protection at either the state or federal level.

“The Trump administration and Nevada conservation officials are in the pocket of the mining industry, so their inaction is disappointing but not surprising,” said Donnelly. “Only the Endangered Species Act can save Tiehm’s buckwheat. Scientists and conservation advocates agree that the Biden administration can stop this species’ slide toward extinction if they act urgently to protect it.”

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 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.