Dixie Valley Toad gets ‘endangered’ status, stands in the way of geothermal plant

A rare toad in Dixie Valley near Fallon has been declared endangered.
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 6:47 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -Dixie Valley sits between the Stillwater and Clan Alpine Ranges about 45 miles northeast of Fallon. Dry high desert landscape is relieved only by hot mineral springs and several hundred acres of marshland.

Dixie Meadows was home once to several ranches. It even had a post office. Today its skies serve as a range for jets from the Fallon Naval Station, a geothermal plant that captures energy from beneath. The marsh and springs support pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep and the home of a tiny, unique toad. In fact, this is its only home on the entire planet and some worry it and the toad may soon be gone.

Ormat Nevada, which operates the geothermal plant several miles north, has been building another adjacent to the spring.

Patrick Donnelly, the Great Basin Director for the Center for Biological Diversity says it’s a direct threat to the spring and the Dixie Valley toad.

“Literature, academic literature, scientific literature shows that geothermal plants almost inevitably result in hot springs drying up.”

Joined by the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, which claims Dixie Meadows as sacred land, the Center has filed suit to stop construction of the plant. In June, they won emergency protection for the toad and now, in record time, the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service has made it permanent and official, the Dixie Valley Toad has been declared an endangered species, with all the protection that implies.

Donnelly says the court case will still be argued, but.....”This is certainly the most powerful tool we have in our tool kit to prevent the extinction of species and so we’re going to use that tool to its fullest potential and, if that means stopping the geothermal power plant from ever being operated, then that’s what we’re going to do,”

So far, there’s been no reaction from Ormat, although it has previously told us it values the toad as well and says it has plans in place to protect it.

The conflict fairly drips with irony. One worthy environmental goal versus another. The development of renewable energy is an important goal Donnelly admits,.

“We need to be selecting the right places to do geothermal energy and we have to be open to the reality that some places are just inappropriate for industrial-scale energy production and Dixie Meadows is one of those places.”