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Conservation group seeks to protect rare snail near Nevada lithium mine

The image is a close-up of fingers holding a tiny stone with a tiny snail on it.
Lynne Buckner
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A Kings River Pyrg, a rare springsnail found only in northwestern Nevada around Thacker Pass, sits on a small stone on April 7, 2022.

Conservationists are trying to protect a rare springsnail in the Mountain West before its habitat is impacted by a proposed lithium mine.

News brief

Conservationists are trying to protect a rare springsnail in the Mountain West before its habitat is impacted by a proposed lithium mine.

The Kings River pyrg is tiny – about the size of a coriander seed. And it’s found only in a remote corner of northwestern Nevada called Thacker Pass. That’s where Canada-based Lithium Americas plans to mine lithium, a key ingredient for electric car batteries.

In response, Western Watersheds Project on Sept. 9 petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the snail under the Endangered Species Act.

Talasi Brooks, an attorney for the Idaho-based group, says the mine would disrupt the quality and quantity of water that feeds the snail's habitat.

“The springs are really, really shallow … as little as, like, a fraction of a centimeter in depth,” Brooks said. “So any change to the availability of water in the area would be pretty significant.”

She says the snail is already being threatened by the effects of climate change, drought and livestock grazing.

Several tribes have also oppose the lithium mine. They say the site is on sacred lands where their ancestors were massacred.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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