RENO, Nev.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it would immediately protect the rare Dixie Valley toad under the Endangered Species Act on an emergency basis. The toads face an acute threat of extinction from the construction of a geothermal power plant adjacent to their only home at Dixie Meadows, a hot spring-fed wetland in Churchill County, Nevada.
“This decision comes just in the nick of time for the Dixie Valley toads, which are staring down the barrel of extinction,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ve been saying for five years that the Dixie Meadows geothermal project could wipe out these tiny toads, and I’m thankful those concerns have been heard.”
The listing comes after five years of advocacy on behalf of the toad by the Center, including an endangered species petition and multiple lawsuits, one of which resulted in a settlement that led to today’s announcement.
Emergency listing is a rare step by the Service, which has only issued an emergency listing for one other species in the past two decades. Emergency listing takes effect immediately upon publication in the Federal Register and lasts for 240 days. Concurrently, the Service will publish a proposed rule to extend the listing beyond the initial period. The proposed rule will be finalized within 12 months.
In November the Bureau of Land Management approved the Dixie Meadows geothermal project and the Center sued the agency shortly thereafter. A federal judge imposed a preliminary injunction to halt construction of the project by developer Ormat. In February the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court. That case is pending.
“Ormat may be politically well-connected and have high-dollar lobbyists, but company officials can’t lobby their way past science,” Donnelly said. “The science is clear. This project poses a threat of extinction to this species. The Bureau of Land Management can’t be trusted to protect Dixie Valley toads, but the life-saving protections of the Endangered Species Act can save these animals from extinction.”
The Dixie Valley toad is one of more than 200 species of plants and animals that live in Nevada and nowhere else in the world. Dozens of these native species are threatened with extinction.
Threats to Dixie Valley toads are part of a global extinction crisis. Scientists predict that more than 1 million species face extinction in coming decades.