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For Immediate Release, August 15, 2012

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360

Endangered Species Act Protection Proposed for Six West Texas Invertebrate Species

Proposal Would Also Protect 450 Acres of Critical Habitat

SILVER CITY, N.M.— In accordance with a landmark settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed Endangered Species Act protection for six species of invertebrates that live in two sets of springs in drought-parched West Texas. The species are the Phantom Cave snail, Phantom springsnail, diminutive amphipod, Diamond Y Spring snail, Gonzales springsnail and Pecos amphipod.

“These exquisite animals, which evolved in isolated springs in West Texas, are getting a new shot at survival,” said Michael Robinson of the Center, which petitioned to protect five of the species in 2004. “Protecting the Phantom Cave snail, the Gonzales springsnail and the four others, along with their watery homes, will ensure that these special places will continue to support animals found nowhere else in the world.”

The current range for the invertebrates is limited to a spring system and its outflow in Reeves and Jeff Davis counties and another spring-sourced wetland in Pecos County. Proposed critical habitat for the species totals 450.6 acres. All but 6.6 acres are owned by The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation group. The rest of the proposed critical habitat is owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and a private party.

The invertebrates require clean water and are threatened by anything that reduces or pollutes flows, potentially including water pumping and offsite oil- and gas-related activities. Critical habitat designation forbids the federal government from harming the designated habitat or issuing permits for private or state authorities to do so.

“The Endangered Species Act is a successful safety net for creatures like these that would otherwise go extinct,” said Robinson. “Even if we never see them, it’s heartening just to know that these tiny and entirely unique forms of life cling to existence in these remote and harsh environments.”

Five of the invertebrates now advance toward protection after decades of delay as a result of a 2011 legal agreement between the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center; the agreement speeds up protection decisions for 757 imperiled species around the country. 

The Phantom cave snail and Phantom springsnail were first proposed for protection in 1976. Protection for the diminutive amphipod and Pecos amphipod were proposed in 1984. And the Diamond Y Spring snail and Gonzales springsnail were proposed for protection in 1989. 

Bureaucratic delay landed these animals on the “candidate” list, where they received no protection. Scientific petitions for five of these animals’ protections were submitted by the Center in 2004. Last year’s agreement led to this important step toward on-the-ground protection.

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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