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Save the Nevada Flower or Face Legal Action

By TheNevadaGlobeStaff, October 28, 2022 10:41 pm

Save the Nevada Flower or Face Legal Action

NEVADA – Conservationists say they are ready to go back to court in a three-year fight over protecting a rare wildflower in Nevada as an endangered species.

This week, the Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal 60-day notice that it plans to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for missing the deadline this month to finalize its proposal to add Tiehm’s buckwheat to the list of endangered species. The proposal was made a year ago.

In its proposal from October 7, 2021, the service said that the desert wildflower, which is only known to grow in the area where the mine will be built halfway between Reno and Las Vegas, was in danger of going extinct.

Under federal law, the agency had one year to list the 6-inch-tall (15-centimeter-tall), yellow-flowered flower in a final rule or explain why it had decided not to.

“Tiehm’s buckwheat is facing extinction, and it can’t wait another day for protection under the Endangered Species Act,” said Patrick Donnelly, the center’s Great Basin director.

“The service is taking too long to protect this rare wildflower, and it looks like the threat of legal action is the only thing that will get it to do its job,” he said.

The people in charge of the agency wouldn’t say why they missed the deadline.

The Associated Press got an email from Laury Marshall, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In it, she said, “We don’t comment on lawsuits.”

In 2019, the center first asked the agency to add it to the federal list. The next year, it got an order from a federal court making the agency make an initial decision about whether there was enough scientific evidence to justify a full review of the plant’s status. The agency then suggested that the species be listed as endangered, pending a review in a year.

The agency said last October, “We find that Tiehm’s buckwheat is in danger of extinction across its entire range due to the severity and immediacy of threats that are already affecting the species and those that are likely to happen in the near future.”

The agency said that the main threats are mineral exploration and development, road building and other vehicle use, livestock grazing, invasive plant species, and herbivory, all of which destroy, change, or cut back on the habitat. It said that climate change could make the risks even worse and that “existing regulatory mechanisms may not be enough to protect the species.”

The agency said at the time that less than 44,000 of the plants were known to exist. The number is likely even lower now, since thousands were killed by rodents in the high desert near the California border in 2021, in what agency officials said was a first-of-its-kind attack.

A lawyer for the center, Scott Lake, said in a formal notice of intent to sue sent to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams on Tuesday that “as-yet-unexplained collection/destruction events” have killed off about 40% of the flower’s population.

“More disturbances continued to happen in the species’ habitat through 2021 and 2022,” Lake said. “This shows how much this species’ survival is at risk.”

Credits: 2 News

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