In accordance with a landmark settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected six aquatic invertebrates from west Texas as endangered species, along with 450 acres of critical habitat. The animals, four springsnails and two crustaceans, live in springs in drought-riddled west Texas. The species (Phantom springsnails, Phantom Cave snails, Diamond springsnails, Gonzales springsnails, diminutive amphipods and Pecos amphipods) live in the San Solomon Springs system near Balmorhea in Reeves and Jeff Davis counties and in the Diamond Y Spring system north of Fort Stockton in Pecos County.
“We don’t notice snails, but these minuscule creatures are true Texas natives. They’ve been here for eons, and they don’t exist anywhere else on the planet,” said Michael Robinson of the Center, which petitioned to protect five of the species in 2004. “And protecting the freshwater places they live in will also preserve the natural heritage of west Texas.”
Proposed critical habitat for the species totals 450.6 acres, and all but 6.6 acres are owned by The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation group. The rest of the proposed critical habitat is owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and a private party.
The invertebrates require clean water and are threatened by anything that reduces or pollutes flows, potentially including water pumping and offsite oil- and gas-related activities. Critical habitat designation forbids the federal government from harming the designated habitat or issuing permits for private or state authorities to do so. More....