Bob Leal

LAS VEGAS (CN) — A Nevada mining company was issued a trespassing notice Wednesday after an employee from the Center for Biological Diversity documented a staging area within the critical habitat of an endangered plant in Esmeralda County, about halfway between Las Vegas and Reno.

The Bureau of Land Management instituted proceedings against Ioneer Rhyolite Ridge, LLC, after Patrick Donnelly of CBD was on his rounds monitoring the landscape and informed the bureau about a staging area used by Ioneer.

“We’re very pleased. I would say we’re a bit surprised by the rapid action (by BLM). But certainly pleased to see them taking action to correct the wrongdoing of what’s happening out there,” said Donnelly.

The endangered plant, called Tiehm’s buckwheat, grows on only 10 acres of land, but that land is located where a proposed lithium and boron mining project is.

“The open pit mine would be right in the middle of it,” said Donnelly, the great basin director for CBD.

Ioneer said it was aware of the permit breach relating to its geotechnical drilling program and said it placed drill program-related equip­­­­­ment along Cave Springs Road that was not authorized under the permit issued by the Bureau of Land Management. The company said it was a violation of BLM regulatory requirements. No Tiehm’s buckwheat was disturbed, the company said.

“We take full responsibility for the breach and sincerely regret the inadvertent noncompliance with the permit. Since day one, Ioneer has instructed our staff and contractors about the need to observe all permit conditions. We are investigating exactly how this failure occurred, and we will take action to assure total compliance in the future,” said Ioneer Managing Director Bernard Rowe.

Laydown area for drilling operations within Tiehm's critical habitat. (Patrick Donnelly/Center for Biological Diversity)
Laydown area for drilling operations within Tiehm's critical habitat. (Patrick Donnelly/Center for Biological Diversity)

In response to years of advocacy and litigation from the CBD, Tiehm’s buckwheat was listed under the Endangered Species Act in December 2022.

“These rare wildflowers need the highest level of care to ensure they don’t slide into extinction, which is why Tiehm’s buckwheat and its critical habitat are protected under the Endangered Species Act,” said Donnelly.

The center also recently sent the BLM a 60-day notice of intent to sue over cattle grazing within Tiehm’s buckwheat’s critical habitat, which the CBD documented causing harm to the plants.

“The mine at Rhyolite Ridge is not a foregone conclusion. The BLM and all parties are obligated to rigorously adhere to the Endangered Species Act and protect Tiehm’s buckwheat,” said Donnelly. “There’s been a pattern of neglect and abuse of this beautiful little desert flower. I’m grateful the BLM took this action, and I’m hoping it’s the beginning of a new pattern of respect for this endangered species.”

Donnelly said despite the plant only growing on 10 acres, it’s imperative that it is saved.

“You know, people are going to think, well, it’s a little flower somewhere and a mining company is doing a little hanky-panky. What’s the big deal? This is about the integrity of the Endangered Species Act, said Donnelly. “People love whales and wolves and elephants. People love endangered species, and the Endangered Species Act has to be rigorously adhered to and enforced for it to have meaning. And so that’s what we’re doing here.”