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Group sues over failed protections for springsnails

Published: Thursday, Sept. 13 2012 4:26 p.m. MDT

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Cary Myler counts tiny Bruneau hot springsnails, Dec. 15, 2006, that thrive in geothermally heated springs seeping along the Bruneau River in southwestern Idaho.

Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — A controversial Nevada pipeline that has drawn opposition in Utah also threatens to jeopardize four important species of springsnails, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its failure to add the aquatic mollusks to its Endangered Species List, especially in light of threats posed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority's groundwater pumping project.

“Scientists say this scheme to feed urban sprawl in Las Vegas could drive these springsnails to extinction,” said ecologist Rob Mrowka with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s water grab threatens hundreds of species of native wildlife, and important water supplies for rural residents and future generations.”

Mrowka said the snails are threatened by a proposed 306-mile pipeline that would carry up to 57 billion gallons of groundwater annually from Nevada’s Great Basin to Las Vegas. Critics fear it would drop the water table and potentially dry up springs that support the snails.

Although the center and other groups petitioned the federal government for protections to be given to the Lake Valley springsnail, hardy springsnail, flag springsnail and bifid duct springsnail, the service failed to make that determination.

Mrowka said the snails improve water quality by consuming decaying matter and algae and are an important food source for fish, birds and amphibians.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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