McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Environmentalists are praising a recent federal proposal to list as endangered a rare springsnail found only in one spot along the southern Arizona border.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week proposed adding Quitobaquito tryonia, a tiny springsnail found in a single spring in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
If so, environmentalists with the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, hope it will preserve groundwater in the area for its habitat. This is groundwater that has been pumped to build border barriers in this part of rural Arizona.
“These tiny, resilient springsnails don’t live anywhere else in the world, and they could be wiped out by groundwater pumping and future border-wall construction. To save them, we have to protect Quitobaquito Springs, a miraculous emerald jewel that’s really the entire universe for these mighty, miniature survivors,” said Laiken Jordahl, Southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“After a review of the best available scientific and commercial information, we find that listing the species is warranted. We also propose to designate critical habitat for the Quitobaquito tryonia,” according to the proposal published Wednesday in the Federal Register.
The agency wants to designate over 6,000 square feet in Pima County, Arizona, as critical habitat to protect the rare springsnail, according to the proposal. That’s less than a quarter of an acre, but it includes Quitobaquito Springs where the springsnail lives.
The poppy-seed-sized Quitobaquito tryonia species lives only in “one tiny pocket of fresh water in one of the driest parts of the Sonoran Desert,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
Quitobaquito Springs is a freshwater pond near the U.S.-Mexico border that is a sacred site to the Hia-Ced O’odham people, and the Tohono O’odham Nation.
The Trump administration waived dozens of environmental laws to pump the groundwater for border wall construction, including mixing cement. That eroded the springsnail’s habitat, the Center for Biological Diversity says.
“The springsnail’s survival depends on the perennial flow of water in Quitobaquito Springs,” Jordahl said. “If this habitat dries up, that spells extinction for this vulnerable springsnail. We hope the proposed protection of the Quitobaquito tryonia will spur urgent action to protect groundwater aquifers in this stunning corner of the Southwest.”
If environmental waivers remain in place, however, Jordalh worries the springsnail’s habitat could still be threatened despite an endangered species designation.
The Center sued the federal government in 2020 to protect over 200 species, including Quitobaquito tryonia, while the Trump administration was building hundreds of miles of border wall along this part of the Southwest border.
The public has until Nov. 13 to comment on the proposal to list the species as endangered at Regulations.gov. Or via mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R2–ES–2023–0073, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–380.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.