Conservationists Want to Protect Snails near a Lithium Mine
By TheNevadaGlobeStaff, September 13, 2022 10:06 am
RENO, Nev. – Endangered Species Act protection is being sought for a small snail half the size of a pea known to exist only in high-desert springs near a massive lithium mine planned in Nevada at the Oregon state boundary.
The Western Watersheds Project submitted the listing petition to the U.S. The Kings River pyrg is a springsnail discovered in 13 isolated springs at Thacker Pass, 200 miles (321 kilometers) northeast of Reno.
It claims that the most serious threat to the snail’s survival is disturbance of groundwater flows caused by the 370-foot-deep (113-meter) open-pit mine allowed by the Bureau of Land Management last year and currently being contested in U.S. courts. Reno District Court
According to the petition, other dangers to the snail’s survival include cattle grazing, road building, and climate change.
“Federal land managers put this aquatic snail in the crosshairs of extinction by hastily approving large-scale lithium mining at Thacker Pass,” said Erik Molvar, executive director of the Idaho-based group.
Increased local manufacturing of lithium, a fundamental component for electric vehicle batteries, is critical to President Joe Biden’s strategy for a greener future. Lithium demand is expected to more than sixfold by 2030 compared to 2020.
Molvar, a wildlife biologist, agrees that the country must “move away from the polluting fossil fuels that are causing climate change,” but not through mining in vulnerable areas.
“We have a responsibility as a society to avoid wreaking ecological havoc as we shift to renewable technologies.” he stated.
According to the petition, the snail’s shell is less than 2 millimeters (.08 inch) tall, whereas a US nickel coin is 1.95 mm thick.
According to the petition, they have survived in isolated springs, which are relics of huge streams that covered what is now dry land only to recede several times over the last 2 million years.
According to the report, groundwater pumping linked with the mine will limit or eliminate flows to the springs that nourish the snails.
A Nevada rancher filed the complaint against Lithium Americas on February 11, 2021, and it was later joined by surrounding tribes and conservation groups, including Western Watersheds Project. It claimed that the mining would breach federal laws for a variety of species, including the vulnerable Lahontan cutthroat trout and the endangered sage grouse.
It further claims that the project will harm lands holy to indigenous members who claim that the US slaughtered dozens of their ancestors there. Calvary in 1865, despite the fact that a judge has decided twice preliminarily that they have failed to prove the place is the same.
Lithium Americas and the Bureau of Land Management contend that none of the springs will be harmed, and that assertions to the contrary were based on an incorrect application of groundwater models, which were submitted after the government’s environmental evaluation was completed.
“Lithium Nevada has done extensive work to design a project that avoids impacts to the springs, which are more than a mile away from the facility site,” said Tim Crowley, a Reno spokesperson for Lithium Americas, a Canadian company.
“Our project is purposely located to not effect local springs and is based on years of data collection, rigorous environmental impact studies, regulatory and public review, engagement with stakeholders, and final approval by the federal authorities,” he wrote in an email Monday.
The BLM stated in court filings in August that the snail was identified during baseline surveys of several of the 56 locations surrounding the project, but none were “detected within the direct footprint of the project or any area likely to be adversely affected by the project.”
Molvar stated on Monday that three springs are inside a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) buffer zone defined by the bureau in its evaluation of the potential implications of a 10-foot (3-meter) dip of the groundwater table, while the rest are less than 4 miles (4.8 km) away. He claims that drawdown is an arbitrary quantity and that a drop of as little as a foot can have a negative influence on snails hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away.
He claimed that the snails were in danger even before any additional mining was considered.
“We’re down to a very few, tiny little habitats in only 13 springs so we can’t afford to lose a single population,” Molvar explained.
Credits: Fox 11
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