U.S. fights new deadline for rare plant protections in Nevada – By Scott Sonner (Associated Press) / May 3 2021
RENO — The Biden administration says a U.S. judge exceeded his authority when he gave federal wildlife officials a May 21 deadline to decide whether to formally propose endangered species protections for a rare desert wildflower at the center of a fight over a proposed lithium mine in Nevada.
Lawyers for the Interior Department filed an emergency request in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas last week asking Judge James Mahan to reconsider his order regarding the fate of the only Tiehm’s buckwheat plants known to exist in the world — about 220 miles southeast of Reno.
The department says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intends to comply with the order to reach a finding by May 21 on whether the flower should receive protections under the Endangered Species Act.
But it says it will be impossible to decide by then whether to designate critical habitat that conservationists want for the plant in an area where Australian mining company Ioneer Ltd. wants to dig for lithium and boron. The mine would help feed growing demand for lithium driven primarily by electric car batteries.