Feds Set Deadline for Endangered Species Listing of Rare Nevada Fish

Feds Set Deadline for Endangered Species Listing of Rare Nevada Fish

The 5-inch Fish Lake Valley tui chub used to live in several isolated springs in Esmeralda County, but now they can only be found in one farming spring in Fish Lake Valley because groundwater levels have dropped and their other springs have dried up. The Nevada Department of Wildlife took the picture.

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Thursday, federal wildlife managers agreed to decide within a year whether to list a rare Nevada fish as a threatened or endangered species. This is because they missed an officially required deadline.

The court told the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that they had to decide by May 17, 2025, about whether to name the Fish Lake Valley tui chub as an endangered species. The agency did so.

The 5-inch Fish Lake Valley tui chub used to live in some isolated springs in Esmeralda County. However, they are now only able to live in one ranch spring in Fish Lake Valley because groundwater loss is destroying their habitat and could dry up the springs they depend on.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated in 2022 that the Fish Lake Valley tui chub would be reviewed in one year to see if it finally meets the requirements for federal protection. This was done because there was strong evidence that groundwater levels in the valley had dropped, putting the rare Nevada fish in danger.

The agency did not meet the 2023 deadline, however, and could be sued by the Center for Biological Diversity for breaking federal law by taking too long to protect the fish that are in danger because of groundwater pumping in an area that is currently suffering a severe drought.

In Fish Lake Valley, groundwater is pumped mostly to grow alfalfa, a crop that needs a lot of water and is fed to cattle and other animals. Conservationists say that planned lithium mines and geothermal projects could also hurt the Tui Chub’s water supply because they could change the flow of groundwater.

There are mining claims on thousands of acres in Fish Lake Valley. These include claims held by Ioneer, an Australian company that is building the Rhyolite Ridge lithium mine in the Silver Peak Range to the east of Fish Lake Valley.

The mine’s working plan for 2022 says that mining would use about 2,500 gallons of water per minute or 4,032 acre-feet of water per year. Ioneer says that in the future, it wants to get water for its mines straight from Fish Lake Valley and pump it up to Rhyolite Ridge through a pipeline.

As part of the deal that was revealed Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have to decide by the end of the year whether to protect nine more species as endangered species or as critical habitats, and they will also have to decide if protections are needed for two more species.

Some of these species are the Suwanee snapping turtle in Florida and Georgia, the Mount Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan in Washington, the least chipmunk in New Mexico, and six kinds of Texas mussels.

Noah Greenwald, head of endangered species at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “We’re facing an extinction crisis that could destroy our way of life. I’m glad these 15 amazing species will get the protections they so desperately need.” “These are some of my favorite species, from big alligator snapping turtles to cute but dangerous martens. It would be so sad if we lost them.”

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