For Immediate Release, November 20, 2019

Contact:

Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org

Two Glacier-dependent Stoneflies Protected Under Endangered Species Act

Glacier National Park’s Glaciers Predicted to Melt as Soon as 2030

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont.— Following a petition and two lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the western glacier and meltwater lednian stoneflies as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Both stoneflies depend on streams formed by glacial meltwater in and around Glacier National Park, as well as a few locations in Grand Teton National Park, and are thus immediately threatened with extinction by the climate crisis.

“As go the glaciers of Glacier National Park, so go these two unique stoneflies,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “Global warming is changing the face of the planet before our eyes, and like these two stoneflies, many species are seeing their habitats disappear.”

Dependent on extremely cold glacial water for their survival, the two stoneflies are limited to streams formed by melting glaciers, snowfields and alpine springs. Those habitats have already declined and are expected to decline further. Since 1900 the mean annual temperature in Glacier National Park has increased by about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit — nearly two times the global mean temperature increase. Of the estimated 150 glaciers in the park in 1850, only 25 remain, and they continue to shrink. The park’s glaciers are predicted to disappear as early as 2030 as a result of climate change.

“The looming extinction of these two stoneflies make plain that we face two closely interlinked crises, climate change and mass extinction,” said Greenwald. “Without fast action to curb our emissions and protect habitats, future generations will live in a much hotter, poorer and more desolate world.”

The Center petitioned for the western glacier stonefly with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in 2010. WildEarth Guardians petitioned for the meltwater lednian stonefly in 2007. With final protections due in 2017, the Center sued earlier this year, resulting in today’s decision.

Stoneflies are excellent indicators of the health of their freshwater habitats. Extremely sensitive to changes in water quality, they are among the first organisms to disappear from degraded rivers and streams. They play a significant role in many aquatic ecosystems, decomposing leaves and other organic material, and form the base of the food chain. Fly fishers have long recognized the important role stoneflies play in providing nutrients for fish. Despite their importance these insects are among the most imperiled groups of animals in North America: More than 40 percent of all stoneflies are vulnerable to extinction because they are especially sensitive to pollution.

Western glacier stonefly
Western glacier stonefly image by Joe Giersch, USGS. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.