HomeOutdoorsNewsNevada Toad at Center of Legal Battle Officially Earns Endangered Status

Nevada Toad at Center of Legal Battle Officially Earns Endangered Status

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Dixie Valley toad is now formally protected under the Endangered Species Act following a temporary emergency listing last spring.

The tiny amphibian first made news when a geothermal power project brought the toad’s “risk of extinction” to light. The emergency order was only the second such ruling that the federal government has made in two decades.

Since the toad was temporarily listed in April, U.S. wildlife specialists have decided that it is also threatened by climate change, groundwater pumping, agriculture, disease, and predation.

Environmentalists first asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Dixie Valley toad in 2017. USFW had not made a decision by January 2022. At that time, construction was beginning next to the wetlands where the animal lives. So groups filed a lawsuit to block construction.

“We’re pleased that the Biden administration is taking this essential step to prevent the extinction of an irreplaceable piece of Nevada’s special biodiversity,” Patrick Donnelly, the Great Basin regional director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said after the initial ruling.

The Nevada Wetlands are the Only Place the Toads Live

The center and the local Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe argued that pumping hot water underground to create carbon-free power would affect the temperature of the wetland. The fluctuation could then kill the toad, and there is no other place in the world where the species lives.

The USFWS eventually agreed with the petitioners’ concerns.

“The best available information indicates that a complete reduction in spring flow and significant reduction of water temperature are plausible outcomes of the geothermal project,” it wrote. “And these conditions could result in the species no longer persisting.”

“Because the species occurs in only one spring system and has not experienced habitat changes of the magnitude or pace projected, it may have low potential to adapt to a fast-changing environment,” the service continued. “We find that threatened species status is not appropriate because the threat of extinction is imminent.”

Officials with Ormat Technology, the company heading the geothermal project, said that the ruling was not a surprise. And in the months since the emergency listing, they’ve been working with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to modify their plans and eventually more forward with the project without threatening the toad.

“BLM began consultation with the FWS, and Ormat has sought approval of a smaller project authorization that would provide additional assurances that the species will not be jeopardized by geothermal development,” Ormat Vice President Paul Thomsen wrote in an email.

Donnelly continued by writing that his project is “essential to combating the climate emergency.” But he added that “it can’t come at the cost of extinction.”