Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 15, 2015

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681,

Lawsuit Filed to Save Glacier National Park Stonefly From Extinction

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to protect a rare stonefly found only in Glacier National Park from extinction. The western glacier stonefly is threatened by the rapid melting of the park’s glaciers, the insect’s only habitat. The Center filed a petition to protect the stonefly in 2010, and in 2011 the Service determined that Endangered Species Act protection may be warranted but still hasn’t issued a legally required decision on the petition.

Western glacier stonefly
Western glacier stonefly photo by Joe Giersch, USGS. Photos are available for media use.

“Protection can’t come soon enough for this stonefly,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. “Glacier National Park will have no glaciers in 15 years if we don’t take action to curb climate change. The plight of the glacier stonefly is a wakeup call that unless the United States takes major action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, this special insect and more than one-third of all plants and animals on Earth could go extinct by 2050.”

The western glacier stonefly is known from only five small streams on the east side of the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park, and it is dependent on extremely cold glacial water for its survival. The park’s glaciers are predicted to disappear as early as 2030 as a result of climate change — and as they go, so to will this unique invertebrate.

Since 1900 the mean annual temperature in Glacier National Park has increased by about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit — nearly two times the global mean temperature increase. Of the estimated 150 glaciers in the park in 1850, only 25 remain, and they continue to shrink.

Stoneflies are excellent indicators of the health of their freshwater habitats. Extremely sensitive to changes in water quality, they are among the first organisms to disappear from degraded rivers and streams. They play a significant role in many aquatic ecosystems, decomposing leaves and other organic material and forming the base of the food chain. Fly fishers have long recognized the important role stoneflies play in providing nutrients for fish. Despite their importance, these insects are one of the most imperiled groups of animals in North America: More than 40 percent of all stoneflies are vulnerable to extinction because they are especially sensitive to pollution.

The Center petitioned for the stonefly with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back