BAKERSFIELD, CA, Dec. 5, 2017 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied protection today to an imperiled Kern County snail under the Endangered Species Act, despite attempts by the Center for Biological Diversity to secure safeguards for the small animal.
The Center filed a petition seeking emergency protection for the Mohave shoulderband snail in 2014 because the snail’s habitat is being destroyed by the Golden Queen open-pit gold mine on Soledad Mountain southeast of Bakersfield.
“The failure to protect this clearly endangered snail is a completely bogus decision that is typical of the Trump administration’s war on science and endangered species,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center.
The Mohave shoulderband is an approximately half-inch-tall, terrestrial snail with a light brown, spiraling shell that’s pale pink underneath. The snail’s entire global range is less than eight square miles on Soledad Mountain and two nearby peaks, Middle Butte and Standard Hill. The mine will destroy a large portion of its habitat on Soledad Mountain, while most of its remaining habitat is threatened by additional mining claims. There are no mechanisms in place that provide the imperiled mollusk with any protection whatsoever.
“The job of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to protect endangered wildlife, including humble but incredibly important tiny animals like snails. But under Trump, instead of protecting wildlife the agency is catering to industry interests,” said Curry.
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Earlier this year the Trump administration denied protection to 29 other clearly threatened species from across the country, including Pacific walrus, Florida Keys mole skinks, Bicknell’s thrushes, Northern Rocky Mountains fishers and bridled darters. Along with the snail, Trump’s administration denied three other species protection today, including white-tailed prairie dogs, Woodville Karst Cave crayfishes and blackfin suckers.
“Condemning the Mohave shoulderband snail and dozens of other species to extinction is a tragedy of epic proportions,” said Curry. “The snail and these other species could be saved with just a little bit of care on our part.”
Snails fill an important role in the environment because they decompose leaves and other dead vegetation, recycle nutrients, build soils and provide food and calcium for birds, reptiles, small mammals and other invertebrates. They also help disperse seeds and fungi. Empty snail shells are used as shelters and egg-laying sites by insects and other arthropods, while broken-down shells return calcium to the soil. In fact, snail shells are the primary calcium source for the eggs of some bird species.
On a global scale, mollusks are one of the most imperiled groups of animals because they are particularly vulnerable to changes in the environment brought about by humans.