RENO, Nev.— As a result of successful litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed protecting 910 acres of critical habitat for Nevada’s Tiehm’s buckwheat, including the areas where all the flower’s populations live and a 500-meter protective buffer.
Tiehm’s buckwheat, an extremely rare Nevada wildflower with yellow “pom-pom” blossoms, is threatened by an open-pit lithium mine that could destroy as much as 90% of its habitat.
The Center successfully sued the Service in 2021 for delaying listing the plant under the Endangered Species Act. The Service subsequently proposed Tiehm’s buckwheat as an endangered species, leading to today’s critical habitat announcement.
“I’m thrilled that the Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized the existential threats to Tiehm’s buckwheat and provided badly needed habitat protections,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s just no way to save species from extinction without protecting the places they live.”
Mining proposed by the Australian mining company Ioneer would potentially destroy almost all of the habitat of the rare plant. To remedy this, the company proposed moving the wildflowers to new areas. Scientists contracted by Ioneer, however, determined that because of the unique soil the plant needs, there were no suitable locations where Tiehm’s buckwheat could live besides where it already does.
The Service’s proposed protective buffer of 500 meters is less than the 1-mile buffer the Center asked for in a protective designation proposal submitted in 2021. During the 60-day comment period that begins with today’s proposal, the Center will request that its 1-mile buffer be put in place instead.
“This proposed critical habitat rule sends a clear message: protecting the native range of Tiehm’s buckwheat is the only way to prevent its extinction,” said Naomi Fraga, Ph.D., conservation director at the California Botanic Garden. “Ioneer’s plan ignores the essential role that Tiehm’s buckwheat plays in its ecosystem. This proposed rule is an indication the Service is rejecting Ioneer’s plans as inadequate to save this species.”
Tiehm’s buckwheat is one of more than 150 species and subspecies of plants that live in Nevada and nowhere else in the world. Dozens of these native plants are threatened with extinction.
Threats to Tiehm’s buckwheat are part of a global extinction crisis. Scientists predict more than 1 million species face extinction in coming decades.
“Biodiversity is what gives us clean air, clean drinking water and puts food on our table,” said Donnelly. “Protecting species like Tiehm’s buckwheat is the only way we can stop the extinction crisis, so the whole world gains by this proposed critical habitat.”