Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 14, 2022


Patrick Donnelly, Center for Biological Diversity, (702) 483-0449,
Naomi Fraga, California Botanic Garden, (626) 674-6746,

Tiehm’s Buckwheat Protected as Endangered Species

Rare Nevada Wildflower Threatened by Lithium Mine

RENO, Nev.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized Endangered Species Act protection today for the rare wildflower Tiehm’s buckwheat, responding to a petition and litigation from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Tiehm’s buckwheat, which grows on just 10 acres of public land in the Silver Peak Range of Nevada’s Esmeralda County, is threatened by a proposed lithium mine that would destroy nearly all its habitat.

In 2019 the Center petitioned the Service to protect the buckwheat, and in 2021 it filed a successful lawsuit to obtain Endangered Species Act protection, resulting in today’s listing.

“I’m thrilled that Tiehm’s buckwheat now has the protections it so desperately needs for survival,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Lithium is an important part of our renewable energy transition, but it can’t come at the cost of extinction. The Service did the right thing by protecting this precious wildflower.”

The Australian mining company Ioneer has proposed the 1,000 foot-deep open-pit Rhyolite Ridge lithium mine. According to the company’s feasibility study, the mine would destroy all but a small fraction of the buckwheat’s habitat.

Tiehm’s buckwheat is a unique species of wildflower highly adapted to the boron and lithium rich soils it grows in. It is a lynchpin of the ecosystem, harboring a highly diverse pollinator community, according to recently published research.

“Tiehm’s buckwheat is an emblem of North America’s unique biodiversity, and I’m so glad it will now be protected from destructive mining,” said Naomi Fraga, Ph.D., director of conservation programs at California Botanic Garden, who co-signed the Endangered Species Act petition with the Center. “In my many visits to the Silver Peak Range, I’ve been dazzled by the beauty of this species and borne witness to the destruction of Ioneer’s mining exploration. I’m proud to be part of the movement to save Tiehm’s buckwheat.”

In addition to designating Tiehm’s buckwheat as an endangered species, today’s announcement also finalizes 910 acres of protected critical habitat for the rare plant. That includes all the existing plants and a 500-meter buffer surrounding them.

In Ioneer’s latest operations plan, which covers the first phase of the mine, it proposes avoiding a tiny island of land containing 75% of the buckwheat population. The island would be surrounded by an open pit mine and tailings dumps within just 12 feet of the rare wildflowers. Ioneer falsely claims this will conserve the buckwheat.

In the listing rule, the Service notes that Ioneer’s latest scenario would “disturb and remove up to 38% of the critical habitat for this species, impacting pollinator populations, altering hydrology, removing soil, and risking subsidence.”

“Ioneer’s ‘Buckwheat Island’ scenario would spell doom for this sensitive little flower,” said Donnelly. “Now that the buckwheat is protected, we’ll use the full power of the Endangered Species Act to ensure Ioneer doesn’t harm one hair on a buckwheat’s head.”

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.

center locations