USFWS issues emergency endangered status for toad

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an emergency endangered listing for Dixie Valley toad on April 7 due to the extinction risk posed by a geothermal project.

The Dixie Valley toad (Anaxyrus williamsi), first described in 2017, is a small toad species with a range restricted to a 760-acre wetland fed by hot springs in the Dixie Valley of Nevada. The hot springs that the species relies is also ideal for geothermal project development.

Construction for the Dixie Meadows Geothermal Utilization Project in the Dixie Valley of Nevada began last year, prompting the Center for Biodiversity and Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe to submit a petition to list the Dixie Valley toad under the Endangered Species Act. In response, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched a species status assessment to determine the geothermal project’s impact on the range-restricted species.

After receiving preliminary findings that the project may pose a high risk of extinction to the Dixie Valley toad, the USFWS emergency listed the species as endangered under the ESA. This action, effective immediately, provides the Dixie Valley toad with federal protections for 240 days. During this time period, the USFWS will consider additional data and public comment to rule if the federal protections should become permanent.

“The Service has determined that geothermal development poses a significant risk to the well-being of the Dixie Valley toad and that emergency listing is necessary to prevent losses that may result in its extinction,” the USFWS said in a press release. “Additionally, the Service seeks input from the public, tribes, other government agencies, the scientific community, industry and other interested parties on the proposed rule to list the Dixie Valley toad under the normal rulemaking process.”

Emergency listing of a species is rare and the USFWS has only done it three times throughout the last 20 years. The last time the USFWS emergency listed a species was for the Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri) in 2011, which resulted in a permanent endangered listing.

The USFWS is holding a public informational session and public hearing regarding the Dixie Valley toad’s emergency listing on May 9, 2022 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. PST. Interested parties may register to learn more about the species or present verbal testimony.

Header Image: The Dixie Valley toad is found only in Nevada, with its entire population living in a thermal spring-fed wetland in the remote Dixie Valley. Credit: Chad Mellison/USFWS