How a rare plant species could hinder a needed lithium mine – JP

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“I would be hard-pressed to see how [FWS] could justify not listing it as endangered, just based on the things the service has said,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director with the Center for Biological Diversity.  

The situation for the species only grew worse after a mysterious event in 2020 killed over half the plants. The Fish and Wildlife Service ultimately blamed “small mammal herbivory” by rodents.

That same year, the Center filed a complaint that the service was in violation of federal law by not acting on the initial petition. In April of 2021 the service settled with the group, agreeing to propose a listing decision, and in October 2021 it released a proposed rule that would list the species as endangered under the ESA. 

Adaptation

First discovered in 1983, the plant can be found on an area of less than 10 acres administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The plant has adapted to live in boron and lithium-rich soil of the landscape, and with only roughly 40,000 existing plants in the wild, biologists have said it warrants immediate protection under the ESA. A listing would then be considered during BLM’s determination on whether to permit the mine. 

Demand for lithium-based batteries has been growing over the last decade. But it has been supercharged by the climate, health care and tax law signed by President Joe Biden in August, which provided tax incentives to boost the adoption of clean energy technologies, including electric vehicles. To receive the full tax credit, the law requires that critical minerals be mined within the U.S. or a nation with which it has a free trade agreement, which excludes imports from some of the world’s largest producers, led by China. 

Source
Las Vegas News Magazine

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