Threats Include Increased Groundwater Pumping, Nitrate Pollution
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency’s failure to protect the rare Ichetucknee siltsnail under the Endangered Species Act. The siltsnail lives only in 10 square yards of submerged mosses and cypress roots at Coffee Spring, along the west bank of the Ichetucknee River. It is threatened by upstream pollution and water withdrawal.
“The siltsnail may not be the most charismatic animal, but its presence in the spring serves as an indicator of the health of the water. Its decline tells us the spring is in trouble,” said Jacki Lopez, a Florida-based staff attorney at the Center.
The Ichetucknee River is entirely spring-fed and is typically crystal-clear, attracting many recreational visitors. The springs that feed it are threatened by diminishing outputs brought on by drought and groundwater pumping, as well as nitrate pollution from atmospheric deposition and nearby pasture and croplands. These threats are all the more significant because the siltsnail is limited to just one location.
The Ichetucknee siltsnail is one of 10 species across the country that the Center is prioritizing for Endangered Species Act protection this fiscal year. Under a settlement agreement with the Service that expedites protection decisions for 757 species, the Center can push forward 10 decisions per year. The other priority species for 2014 include the Alexander Archipelago wolf from Alaska, the San Bernardino flying squirrel, the black-backed woodpecker from California and South Dakota, Kirtland’s snake from the Midwest, and four freshwater species from the southeastern United States, including two fish, a mussel and a crayfish. The species are facing extinction for many reasons, chief among them habitat loss from logging and development, global climate change, pollution, groundwater decline and water overuse.
Under the landmark settlement, 118 species have already gained Endangered Species Act protection, and another 24 have been proposed for protection.