Review launched for snail’s status in vicinity of lithium mine

Nevada springsnail - Kings River pyrg
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  • Federal officials initiate a year-long review on the conservation status of the Kings River pyrg, a unique snail species.
  • Environmental concerns arise over the impact of the Thacker Pass lithium mine on the snail’s habitat.
  • The review is a critical step in determining if the snail warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.

February 13, 2024 — In response to environmental concerns, federal wildlife authorities have embarked on a comprehensive review to assess the potential threat to a unique snail species, the Kings River pyrg, found exclusively in the vicinity of a proposed lithium mine on the Nevada-Oregon border. This decision, announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, follows calls from conservationists who argue that the mine’s groundwater demands could endanger the snail’s survival. (Link to Federal Register notice published February 8Opens in a new tab..) The snail is about half the size of a pea.

The review suggests the snail’s habitat is at risk and will evaluate whether the Kings River pyrg should be classified as threatened or endangered. This move comes amidst broader efforts to boost domestic lithium productionOpens in a new tab., essential for electric vehicle batteries, aligning with environmental sustainability goals. The Thacker Pass mine, spearheaded by Lithium Americas, has been a focal point of debate, balancing economic and environmental priorities.

Environmental advocates, led by the Western Watersheds Project, have warned that without protective measures, the unique springsnail could fall victim to the expanding lithium mining operations. Despite the company’s assurance of minimal impact, based on extensive research and monitoring, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s investigation will delve into the potential effects of mining activities on the snail’s natural springs habitat in Humboldt County.

The area, characterized by 13 isolated springs within a critical radius, has already shown signs of disturbance and altered water flows, raising alarms about the snail’s future. Threats identified include not only the mining project but also livestock grazing, roads, drought, climate change, and habitat disruption. These factors contribute to the complexity of the situation, underscoring the snail’s precarious position in an evolving environmental landscape.

This review will not only determine the fate of the Kings River pyrg but also set a precedent for how similar conflicts are approached in the future.

To Comment (Quoted from the Federal Register):

If you have new scientific or commercial data or other information concerning the status of, or threats to, the Kings River pyrg or its habitat, please provide those data or information by one of the following methods:

(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.govOpens in a new tab.. In the Search box, enter FWS–R8–ES–2023–0261, which is the docket number for this action. Then, click on the “Search” button. After finding the correct document, you may submit information by clicking on “Comment.” If your information will fit in the provided comment box, please use this feature of https://www.regulations.govOpens in a new tab., as it is most compatible with our information review procedures. If you attach your information as a separate document, our preferred file format is Microsoft Word. If you attach multiple comments (such as form letters), our preferred format is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R8–ES–2023–0261, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

We request that you send information only by the methods described above. We will post all information we receive on https://www.regulations.govOpens in a new tab.. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us.

Image: Screen Shot from 8 News Now video posted above.


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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