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For Immediate Release, June 21, 2010

Contact:  Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360

Critical Habitat Newly Proposed for Four Species of Endangered Snails, Freshwater Shrimp

New Mapping Identifies Creatures' Watery Homes With Greater Precision

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that springs and wetlands in Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge and west Texas be designated as critical habitat for three endangered aquatic snails and a freshwater shrimp: the Roswell springsnail, Koster’s springsnail, Pecos assiminea and Noel’s amphipod. The proposal reopens for public comment a proposed designation from last year that was not finalized; it refines the proposal through newly completed GIS mapping.

“The newly proposed critical habitat areas include all wetlands where these rare animals are still found,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. It was the Center’s 2001 settlement agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service that led to these animals’ placement on the endangered species list in 2005 and to designation, at that time, of 397 acres, none within the refuge, for their critical habitat.

The new proposal would protect:

  • 67.8 acres on the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge;
  • 2.8 acres in the city of Roswell, New Mexico, adjacent to the refuge, where Noel’s amphipod and Koster’s springsnail have recently been documented; and
  • 61.5 acres in Diamond Y spring complex in, Pecos County, Texas, for the Pecos assiminea.

It would also reduce a critical habitat area that was designated in 2005 in the East Sandia spring complex, Reeves County, Texas, by 13.5 acres.

Oil and gas drilling in and near the wildlife refuge and the west Texas wetlands threatens to contaminate the pure water on which the four invertebrates depend for survival. Groundwater pumping for irrigation also threatens the Texas waters. The critical habitat designation prohibits federal actions, including issuance of permits, that would cause harm to critical habitat elements such as clean water.

“The existence of these exquisite creatures is testimony that a few springs in the Pecos River watershed still flow with pure, unpolluted water,” said Robinson. “Critical habitat will help keep these waters clean and these unique animals alive.”

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