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For Immediate Release, July 11, 2012

Contact:  Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Springsnail Found Only in New Mexico Gains Endangered Species Act Protection

Chupadera springsnail
Photos available for media use. Chupadera springsnail photo by Robert Hershler, Smithsonian.

SANTA FE, N.M. As the result of a landmark 2011 legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protections for 757 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the Chupadera springsnail as endangered and designated about two acres of “critical habitat” essential for its conservation. The springsnail is found at two springs in the Chupadera Mountains in Socorro County, N.M., and nowhere else on Earth.

“Protecting this rare freshwater snail and its habitat under the Endangered Species Act will ensure that this unique piece of New Mexico’s natural heritage isn’t erased,” said Tierra Curry, biologist at the Center. “Time was running out. It’s been almost 30 years since federal scientists acknowledged the snail needed protection. But now it’s likely to survive, because the Act has a 99 percent success rate at preventing the extinction of the plants and animals under its care.”

The Chupadera springsnail was first placed on the federal candidate list — a waiting list for federal protection — in 1984. The Center took legal action to protect the springsnail in 1999 and in July 2011 reached an unprecedented legal agreement with the Service to expedite protection for the springsnail and 756 other imperiled species.

The springsnail is threatened by groundwater depletion from water pumping to support the Highland Springs Ranch subdivision, as well as by increased drought severity exacerbated by global climate change. It is also threatened by livestock grazing, which the Service reports has damaged approximately 80 percent of all stream habitats in the western United States. Livestock degrade stream water quality by trampling vegetation and polluting the water with manure.

The Chupadera springsnail is one-tenth of an inch long and lives for only one year. Springsnails improve water quality by scraping algae and bacteria from rocks to feed; they are also an important indicator of high water quality. Protecting the springsnail’s habitat will also protect the water source for other wildlife that rely on the spring.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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