Lawsuit seeks to expel cattle from endangered wildflower habitat

By: - January 9, 2023 2:25 pm

Cows in Tiehm’s buckwheat habitat, Esmerelda County, Nevada. (Photo credit: Patrick Donnelly, Center for Biological Diversity.)

A conservation group is suing the federal government in an effort to ban cattle from grazing in the habitat of an endangered wildflower that can only be found on about 10 acres of public land in Esmeralda County, Nevada.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice Monday of its intent to sue the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for failing to adequately protect the rare Nevada wildflower Tiehm’s buckwheat from cattle grazing.

Last month, the buckwheat was listed under the Endangered Species Act, and federal wildlife managers also designated 910 acres in the Silver Peak Range as federally protected habitat in order to support the plant’s reproduction and rehabilitation.

The notice seeks to remove cattle from the buckwheat’s federally protected habitat after the conservation group claims it discovered seven cows grazing on the habitat and destroying individual plants.

Last year the BLM assured the group all cattle had been voluntarily removed from the site.

“Tiehm’s buckwheat is one of North America’s most endangered plants, but federal officials are letting the livestock industry run roughshod over its fragile habitat,” said Patrick Donnelly, the Center’s Great Basin director, who documented the damage. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized cattle grazing as a threat to the buckwheat’s existence, but the Bureau of Land Management has done nothing to protect these wildflowers.”

The buckwheat, which produces tufts of bright yellow flowers, faces threats from predation, mining, climate change, off-highway vehicles and grazing, say federal wildlife managers.

An Australian mining company, Ioneer Corp., has proposed an open-pit lithium mine on the plant’s only known habitat, risking its extinction in the wild.

Additionally, thousands of Tiehm’s buckwheat were destroyed in a  bizarre predation event two years ago that reduced the flower’s global population by at least 50%, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

“Each one of these plants is precious and essential for the recovery of this endangered species,” said Donnelly. “It’s totally unacceptable that the BLM is letting cows destroy this wildflower’s protected critical habitat while greenlighting a lithium mine that could wipe out the whole species. We’re going to court to hold this agency accountable for protecting each and every buckwheat.”

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Jeniffer Solis
Jeniffer Solis

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.