Feds agree to decide if wildflower is endangered by end of month

By: - May 17, 2021 1:44 pm

(Photo courtesy of Center for Biological Diversity)

Teihm’s buckwheat flower. (Photo courtesy of Center for Biological Diversity)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to make a determination on the listing of a rare Nevada wildflower as an endangered species by the end of the month.

Monday’s announcement comes after a federal judge on April 21 ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to make a determination on the listing within 30 days. 

The service was sued by the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group, in September, demanding the federal government expedite a decision on listing Nevada’s rare Tiehm’s buckwheat as “endangered” or “threatened” after discovering wide-scale destruction to the plants that destroyed more than 40 percent of the total global population.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to issue a 12-month finding of whether a decision for the protection for the Tiehm’s buckwheat is warranted or not by May 31. If a listing is warranted, a proposed rule must be offered no later than Sept. 30. The agreement also states that the latest a proposed critical habitat rule could be published would be May 2, 2022.

Until recently, the species did not face significant threats due to its remote location. However, increased interest in mining around the state, particularly for lithium, has put the plant at risk.

An Australian mining company, Ioneer Corp., has proposed an open-pit lithium mine in Esmeralda County on the plant’s only known habitat. In a statement, Ioneer Managing Director Bernard Rowe said the decision by the federal court was “a welcome development” adding that the 12- month finding is not the final step in listing determination.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the valuable scientific work that is being undertaken by the federal agencies including the FWS and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to ensure decisions made regarding this important species are based on the best available science. We are confident that the science strongly supports the coexistence of our vital lithium operation and Tiehm’s buckwheat,” Rowe said in a statement. “Should FWS determine that the plant be listed as an endangered species, this would not preclude the project being developed. The protection and conservation measures we will and are already putting in place will ensure the long-term viability of the population at Rhyolite Ridge and ioneer believes that these protection measures would be required irrespective of whether the plant is listed or not.”

“Tiehm’s buckwheat is staring down the barrel of extinction,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center. “The lifesaving protections of the Endangered Species Act are critical to keep this wildflower from being wiped out by a proposed mine. We look forward to Fish and Wildlife Service doing the right thing and swiftly giving this special wildflower the protection it deserves.”

This story was updated with a statement from Ioneer Managing Director Bernard Rowe.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Jeniffer Solis
Jeniffer Solis

Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.