RENO, Nov.– The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the critically endangered Railroad Valley Toad, which is threatened by a lithium production and oil drilling project.
This recently identified species is found in a single complex of spring-fed wetlands in Railroad Valley, Nevada. It has an estimated distribution of just 445 acres and is isolated from other toads by miles of arid desert. Like many of Nevada’s groundwater-dependent species, this unique toad relies on a consistent spring flow for its survival.
The only habitat of the Railroad Valley toad is imminently threatened by a proposed lithium production project that would be located less than 10 miles away. The project seeks to extract billions of gallons of groundwater, or brine, per year, threatening the springs the toad depends on. Post-treated brine would also be re-injected underground, potentially degrading the water quality of the wetland complex.
“While we strongly support the transition to renewable energy and recognize that lithium is an important component, it cannot come at the expense of the survival of these rare toads,” said Krista Kemppinen, Ph.D., scientist main in the center. . “We are in a biodiversity crisis, and amphibians are more at risk than any other group of vertebrates. Lithium production must minimize threats to species and water consumption and maximize recycling.
In addition to lithium production, oil and gas development in the valley also threatens the Railroad Valley Toad. There are dozens of active oil wells in Railroad Valley, and the Bureau of Land Management has leased much of the valley’s public land, including land around the toad habitat, to oil companies.
The Railroad Valley Toad has a brown and gray back with prominent warts and a black and white belly. It evolved to survive in a rare spring-fed habitat in an active geothermal area. Described as a separate species in 2020, it is one of the smallest members of the Anaxyrus boreas group of species.
“The Railroad Valley toad has been a survivor for millennia in its aquatic desert,” Kemppinen said. “Without protection under the Endangered Species Act, this unique toad will disappear forever.”