Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 9, 2015

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495,

Glacier National Park Stonefly One Step Closer to Protection Under Endangered Species Act

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mt.— The Center for Biological Diversity reached a settlement today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in which the agency agreed to make a decision by Sept. 30, 2016 about Endangered Species Act protections for the western glacier stonefly. The stonefly is found only in Glacier National Park and is immediately threatened with extinction by melting glaciers caused by global warming. 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.

Western glacier stonefly
Western glacier stonefly photo by Joe Giersch, USGS. This photo is available for media use.

“The western glacier stonefly is rapidly losing its habitat to global warming and deserves protection as an endangered species,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “This stonefly is a canary in the coalmine for global warming. Without efforts to curb our emissions, all the glaciers in Glacier National Park will disappear within as little as 15 years.”

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

Under today’s settlement the stonefly is one of 10 species from across the country that now have binding deadlines for the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue final protection decisions. The other species include the black-capped petrel from the Atlantic Coast, Mohave shoulderband snail from California, and seven southeastern U.S. species, including one mussel — the yellow lance — and six fish: candy darter, trispot darter, ashy darter, longhead darter, sickle darter and frecklebelly madtom.  

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 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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