A recently discovered toad species in Nevada is already under the threat of extinction.
The emergency petition is being prepared by the conservationists with the goal to list the Dixie Valley toad as an endangered species and protect it from a proposed geothermal energy project at the edge of its isolated home in Churchill Country.
The Dixie Valley toad was just recently discovered by the Nevada researchers and it is currently the first new species of toad that was found anywhere in the U.S. in the last 50 years. This new species was discovered by researcher Michelle Gordon from the University of Nevada, Eric Simandle, former UNR researcher and C. Richard Tracy, a UNR Professor and a biologist who has a lizard species named after him.
Gordon said that they have first seen this toad in the early 2000s. They published a follow-up study in 2014, where its status as a genetically distinct species was confirmed.
These toads have bumpy skin painted in black, green and brown and can grow up to around 2 inches. Their only known habitat is located 400 miles northwest of Los Angeles in the Dixie Valley and it covers more than 2 square miles of the federal land.
A plan by Ormat Technologies, a company based in Reno, is currently being reviewed by the Bureau of Land Management. The plan is about building up to two geothermal power plants right next to toad’s habitat.
Company’s executive director of government and regulatory affairs, Paul Thomsen wrote in the statement that Ormat Technologies is “committed to developing its renewable, geothermal facilities in the most environmentally friendly way possible, and we look forward to meeting the requirements put forward by the Bureau of Land Management.”
Researchers insist that this project is just too big of a risk to Dixie Valley toad. At the public comment during, held during last month the Nevada Department of Wildlife questioned Ormat’s plans to route the power lines from the new plants through the heart of the wetland.
Nevada wildlife advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, Patrick Donnelly said that the environmental assessment underestimated the threats to the newly found species and the springs that sustain it because the assessment was written before the discovery of the toad.
Donnelly said that the agency’s thoughts on this problem are probably “there won’t be any impacts, and if there are we will detect them and fix them,” But he warns that even a small disruption could become irreversible.
He said: “If those springs went dry for even one year, that would be the extinction of the species.”
The Bureau of Land Management is currently reviewing the comments it received on the assessment as it prepares to make a decision on the geothermal project.
Gordon is concerned that the stakes couldn’t be higher at this moment. “The toad doesn’t have any place else to go,” she said. “It could be gone before we can find out more about it.”