SAN FRANCISCO — Lawyers for conservation advocates and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe will present oral arguments Wednesday in the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco challenging the government’s approval of a geothermal power plant . The plant threatens to destroy a sacred Nevada site and drive the rare Dixie Valley Toad to extinction.
“The government’s own scientists are convinced that this geothermal project would destroy Dixie Meadows and lead to the extinction of the Dixie Valley Toad. We hope the court agrees,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Federal officials broke the law when they approved this project. This case gives the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe and the Dixie Valley Toad a chance at justice.
What: Oral arguments on a motion for a preliminary injunction challenging the United States Bureau of Land Management’s 2021 approval of the Dixie Meadows geothermal project in central Nevada.
When: 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, June 15, 2022.
Where: United States Court of Appeals, James R. Browning Courthouse, 95 7th St., San Francisco, CA, 94103. The hearing will also be streamed live.
Who: The Center for Biological Diversity will be represented by attorney Scott Lake. The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe will be represented by attorney Wyatt Golding. Judges Jay S. Bybee, Consuelo M. Callahan and Daniel P. Collins will hear arguments.
Dixie Meadows is a verdant desert oasis in central Nevada, created by the outpouring of numerous hot springs that create a series of wetlands and ponds in the Great Basin desert. Dixie Meadows is a sacred site for the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe and is also home to the Dixie Valley Toad, an extremely rare and tiny species that lives nowhere else on earth.
Geothermal developer Ormat has targeted Dixie Meadows for geothermal development for many years. Geothermal power plants have a long and well-documented history of drying up nearby hot springs. In 2017, the Center submitted an Endangered Species Act petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Dixie Valley Toad.
In 2021, over objections from conservationists and the tribe, the Bureau of Land Management approved the Dixie Meadows geothermal project. In December 2021, the Center and the Tribe sued the BLM.
In January, Judge Robert C. Jones ruled in favor of the tribe and the center and issued a preliminary injunction to stop construction. Ormat appealed to the 9th Circuit, which in February suspended the injunction, allowing construction to continue shortly thereafter.
In April, the US Fish and Wildlife Service took the rare step of providing the toad with emergency protections under the Endangered Species Act.
The Dixie Valley toad is one of more than 200 species of plants and animals that live in Nevada and nowhere else in the world. Dozens of these native species are threatened with extinction.
The threats to Dixie Valley toads are part of a global extinction crisis. Scientists predict that more than a million species will be threatened with extinction in the coming decades.