U.S. Fish & Wildlife Sued Over Microscopic Ichetucknee Siltsnail

In 2011, the Center for Biological Diversity struck a huge legal settlement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that meant the agency needed to decide whether to put 757 different animals on the endangered species list. They bragged, using animals that would pull at people's heartstrings, touting photos of critters like the American wolverine, the Mexican grey wolf, and the Pacific walrus on their website. You know, fauna clearly visible to the naked eye.

One of the first animals that needed to be decided on, though, was the Ichetucknee siltsnail -- thus named for its resemblance to a grain of sand.

The center's attorney, Jaclyn Lopez, conceded to the Associated Press that the snail was not "the most charismatic animal" but said the size of its entire habitat is about the size of your apartment's living room.

Although 118 species have been added to the endangered list and 24 proposed for protection as a result, less attention has been paid to this lonely and shiny brown pebble.

Yesterday, the center filed a lawsuit against the feds, saying they've done nothing so far to keep up their end of the settlement when it comes to this microscopic Floridian snail species. It's amazing that the 2- to 3-millimeter-wide moss dweller hasn't already disappeared given that its entire habitat is confined to ten square yards near Ichetucknee Springs State Park, in North Florida.

Although the snail might not have much time left, the government had plenty of time to avoid the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. A notice of intent was filed in 2012 after no action was taken on ten species, including the snail.

Eight out of the ten species the center threatened to sue over are from Florida, but the snail was considered the most important. "Its extremely limited habitat, coupled with ongoing impacts to water quality, make this freshwater species faced with eminent extinction," the attorney, Lopez, wrote.

The last time the Ichetucknee siltsnail was up for review by the government was 1994.

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Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.