For Immediate Release
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6 West Texas Snails and Crustaceans Protected Under Endangered Species Act Along With 450 Acres of Habitat
AUSTIN - In accordance with a landmark settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected six aquatic invertebrates from west Texas as endangered species, along with 450 acres of critical habitat. The animals, four springsnails and two crustaceans, live in springs in drought-riddled west Texas. The species (Phantom springsnails, Phantom Cave snails, Diamond springsnails, Gonzales springsnails, diminutive amphipods and Pecos amphipods) live in the San Solomon Springs system near Balmorhea in Reeves and Jeff Davis counties and in the Diamond Y Spring system north of Fort Stockton in Pecos County.
“We don’t notice snails, but these minuscule creatures are true Texas natives. They’ve been here for eons, and they don’t exist anywhere else on the planet,” said Michael Robinson of the Center, which petitioned to protect five of the species in 2004. “And protecting the freshwater places they live in will also preserve the natural heritage of west Texas.”
Proposed critical habitat for the species totals 450.6 acres, and all but 6.6 acres are owned by The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation group. The rest of the proposed critical habitat is owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and a private party.
The invertebrates require clean water and are threatened by anything that reduces or pollutes flows, potentially including water pumping and offsite oil- and gas-related activities. Critical habitat designation forbids the federal government from harming the designated habitat or issuing permits for private or state authorities to do so.
“The Endangered Species Act is a successful safety net for creatures like these,” said Robinson. “Even if we never see them, we need to stop these unique forms of life from going extinct. Extinction is forever, and who knows what benefits these animals may bring us down the road?”
The animals have been on the waiting list for federal protection for many years. The Phantom cave snail and Phantom springsnail were first proposed for protection in 1976. Protection for the diminutive amphipod and Pecos amphipod were proposed in 1984. And the Diamond springsnail and Gonzales springsnail were proposed for protection in 1989. A 2011 landmark settlement agreement between the Center and the Fish and Wildlife Service reached will expedite decisions on each of the species on the waiting list for protection within the next five years.
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