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For Immediate Release, April 16, 2012

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495         

Two Southwest Springsnails, Critical Habitat Protected Under Endangered Species Act

TUCSON, Ariz.— In accordance with a landmark settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected two tiny Southwestern springsnails under the Endangered Species Act and protected 19 acres of critical habitat for their remaining springs. The Three Forks springsnail is found at only one spring complex, in Arizona’s Apache County on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in the White Mountains, and had its federal protection petitioned for by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2004. The San Bernardino springsnail occurs at only two or three springs on a private ranch in Cochise County, Ariz., as well as at several recently discovered springs in Mexico.

“We’re very glad these two springsnails are finally getting the Endangered Species Act protection they need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center. “The Endangered Species Act is our best tool for saving species like these unique springsnails. The Act has saved more than 99 percent of species under its protection and is recovering hundreds more.”

Until 2003, there were two known populations of the Three Forks springsnail, but one has since gone extinct. The remaining population was severely affected by the Wallow fire in 2010. Two of the three populations of San Bernardino springsnail are also perilously small. The snails are threatened by groundwater depletion, pollution from fire-retardant chemicals and pesticides, damage to springs from elk, and predation by nonnative crayfish.

“These two unique springsnails are getting protection in the nick of time,” said Greenwald. “Saving these springsnails will save the unique character of the springs they live in. They’re also an important indicator of water quality and an important part of their ecosystems’ food web.”

The Three Forks springsnail is less than one-fifth of an inch long and lives in very shallow, high-elevation springs in open mountain meadows. The San Bernardino springsnail is less than one-tenth of an inch long, with a narrow conic shell, and occurs in fast-flowing springs with rocky bottoms. The critical habitat for the Three Forks springsnail is 17.2 acres on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Apache County; the critical habitat for the San Bernardino springsnail is two acres on a private ranch in Cochise County.

The snails were protected as part of a 2011 agreement between the Center and the Fish and Wildlife Service that is speeding up protection decisions for 757 species around the country.

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