The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Tierra Curry
(928) 522-3681

35 Springsnail Species Move Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

Nevada, Utah and California Springs Threatened by Planned Las Vegas Pipeline


In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society, and noted scientist Dr. James Deacon, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today determined that 32 springsnail species in Nevada, Utah and California may qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act. A previous determination for three additional species brings the total to 35 species under consideration for protection. The springsnails are threatened by the proposed Southern Nevada Water Authority pipeline that would transport groundwater from rural Nevada and Utah to Las Vegas.

"Scientists have determined that the planned Las Vegas water grab could drive these springsnails to extinction, so we're really glad to see them advance toward the Endangered Species Act protection that could save them," said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center. "The Southern Nevada Water Authority's pipeline scheme threatens not just these snails but also hundreds of other species -- to say nothing of water supplies for rural residents and future generations."

Today's finding is the result of a landmark legal settlement reached this summer between the Center and the Service to expedite protection for 757 imperiled species across the country.

The springsnails are found in Clark, Lincoln, Nye and White Pine counties in Nevada, Beaver and Millard counties in Utah, and Inyo County, Calif. The groups sought protection for the species in February 2009 in a petition seeking protection for 42 springsnails scientists have identified as threatened by Las Vegas' pumping plans.

Because springsnails depend on consistent groundwater flow, reductions in flow will have an immediate impact on their populations, meaning the snails are excellent indicators of declining water tables. Springsnails also improve water quality by consuming decaying matter and algae; they are an important food source for fish, birds and amphibians.

"Endangered Species Act protection is the only hope for saving these springsnails, which are an important part of the natural heritage of the Great Basin. Saving the springsnails would also save habitat for many other plants and animals in Nevada, Utah and California," said Curry.
The planned 306-mile long pipeline would transport 176,655 acre feet (57.6 billion gallons) of groundwater annually to Las Vegas from east-central Nevada and western Utah. The pumping could cause the water table to drop more than 200 feet, which would dry up the springs that support the springsnails and provide water for countless other species. The "draft environmental impact statement" for the pipeline found that 305 springs, 112 miles of streams, 8,000 acres of wetlands and 191,506 acres of shrubland wildlife habitat are threatened by the proposal.

Pumping could result in a drop in the land surface of more than five feet over 525 square miles, as well as the generation of 34,742 tons of windblown dust per year due to the death of vegetation. The pipeline threatens five national wildlife refuges, two national parks, four state wildlife areas and seven state parks. It is expected to have irreversible effects on agriculture and livestock in rural Nevada and Utah.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society is a nonprofit organization devoted to the advocacy for, public education about, and conservation science of freshwater mollusks, North America's most imperiled fauna.

Dr. James E. Deacon is a retired professor from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where his research focused on ecology and conservation biology of desert fishes and on issues of sustainable use of water in the Southwest. His research and conservation efforts have been funded by The National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and a variety of other agencies. His more than 85 scientific papers, article and contributions to books and other compendia have brought him awards and recognition from The American Fisheries Society, National Wildlife Federation, Nevada Department of Museums and History, Nature Conservancy and others.

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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