Emergency Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Two Grand Canyon Species Threatened by Tusayan Development

For Immediate Release

Emergency Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Two Grand Canyon Species Threatened by Tusayan Development

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The Center for Biological Diversity filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today seeking Endangered Species Act protection for a tiger beetle and a flower found in wet seeps in the Grand Canyon and nowhere else on Earth. The Arizona wetsalts tiger beetle and Macdougal’s yellowtops, a flower in the aster family, could be driven extinct due to groundwater pumping to support massive new real estate developments planned for the tiny town of Tusayan at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must act quickly to protect these rare Grand Canyon species under the Endangered Species Act, or we’ll be at risk of losing an irreplaceable piece of our natural heritage to shortsighted real estate development,” said Robin Silver, a founder of the Center.

The springs the two rare species depend on are fed by the Redwall/Muav aquifer. The already-stressed aquifer would be depleted by the Tusayan development, causing the flower and the tiger beetle to go extinct. There are no safeguards in place to protect the springs or the species from the development plan.

Endangered Species Act protection would make it illegal for anyone to harm the species or their habitat. It would also require any project on federal land or that receives federal funding or permits to consult with the Service to make sure the species would not be harmed.

The Tusayan development would include more than 2,100 housing units and 3 million square feet of retail space along with hotels, a spa and conference center. The proposal, by the Stilo Development Group, would transform the 580-resident community of Tusayan from a small, quiet tourist town into a sprawling complex of homes and strip malls. Groundwater pumping accompanying the development will also likely lower the aquifer that is the exclusive source of all water for Havasu Falls, the cultural foundation of the Havasupai tribe. The superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park has called the project one of the greatest threats to Grand Canyon in the 96-year history of the park.

Species Background

Macdougal’s yellowtops is a perennial yellow flower in the aster family that grows to be 3 feet tall with woody rootstalks. It occurs in five small populations in the western Grand Canyon between Granite Narrow and Lava Falls (river miles 135 to 177). It is found in hanging gardens or terrace ledges in perennial alkaline or saline seeps, in Muav Limestone and at Muav Limestone Bright Angel Shale interfaces from elevations of 1,750 feet to 4,000 feet. It is scientifically significant because it is different from all other yellowtops species and may be the only plant in its genus. Its Latin name is Flaveria macdougalii.

The Arizona wetsalts tiger beetle is half an inch long with a green back and an attractive dark-and-light, wavy wing pattern. It occurs sporadically in seeps and springs of the eastern basin of the inner Grand Canyon from Nankoweap Creek (River Mile 52) downstream to Stone Creek (River Mile 132). It is restricted to the banks of perennial streams that run over bedrock and cobble gravel at elevations between 600 feet and 1,230 feet. Ongoing genetic research indicates that it will likely be elevated from subspecies to species status. Tiger beetles are so named for their aggressive predatory behavior, strong mandibles and fast running speed. The Arizona wetsalts tiger beetle’s Latin name is Cicindela hemorrhagica arizonae.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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