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Emergency petition filed in effort to save rare Nevada wildflower

Posted at 12:37 PM, Oct 08, 2019

The Center for Biological Diversity has submitted an emergency petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday to protect a rare Nevada wildflower named Tiehm’s buckwheat (Eriogonum tiehmii) under the Endangered Species Act. The plant is threatened by mineral exploration and a proposed open-pit mine.

Tiehm’s buckwheat is a rare wildflower found only on 10 acres of public land in the remote Silver Peak Range of Esmerelda County. With beautiful white flowers and prolific seed production, it is one of the few plants to grow in the highly mineralized soil it is adapted to.

“Trump administration officials are letting mining companies bulldoze this little flower’s habitat while they think nobody’s looking,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This wildflower needs the protections of the Endangered Species Act if it’s going to make it.”

Ioneer, an Australian mineral company, has been conducting exploration activities in the buckwheat’s habitat, including grading new roads and well pads and drilling test wells. The company has already bulldozed a road between two of the six populations of buckwheat, potentially irreversibly severing their reproductive connectivity.

Long-term plans call for an open-pit mine to produce lithium and boron. The proposed mine’s project area includes the entire area where Tiehm’s buckwheat is known to grow.

“Tiehm’s buckwheat is a special little wildflower that plays an integral role in the desert ecosystem by stabilizing soils and dispersing seeds,” said Donnelly. “Trump is letting mining companies destroy its habitat for a quick buck, and this petition is our first step in fighting back to save this plant.”

The Center on Monday also submitted a petition to the Nevada Division of Forestry to protect the plant. The agency has authority under state law to protect “various species of flora which are threatened with extinction.”

“Tiehm’s buckwheat faces imminent extinction, and it needs all the help it can get,” said Donnelly. “We’re calling on our state and federal governments to ensure that even the smallest members of our biotic community get the protections they need to survive.”