LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A toad threatened by a Nevada geothermal project has been listed for emergency protection under the Endangered Species Act, according to an environmental advocacy group.

The Dixie Valley toad, which lives only in the Dixie Meadows in central Nevada, has been the subject of a five-year battle led by the Center for Biological Diversity. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that the toad would get an emergency listing — a rare step.

“This decision comes just in the nick of time for the Dixie Valley toads, which are staring down the barrel of extinction,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement released on Monday. “We’ve been saying for five years that the Dixie Meadows geothermal project could wipe out these tiny toads.”

The toad has scattered gold-colored flecks that cover its olive body. It is the smallest member of the toad species found in the region.

A geothermal power plant adjacent the Dixie Meadows posed an “acute threat of extinction” because construction would disturb the hot spring-fed wetland in Churchill County. Construction on the plant broke ground in February as a court battle proceeded. Ormat Technologies, Inc. operates two geothermal plants in the area.

The Bureau of Land Management approved the Dixie Meadows geothermal project in November, prompting a lawsuit, and an injunction to halt construction was issued and then overturned. The case is still pending.

“Ormat may be politically well-connected and have high-dollar lobbyists, but company officials can’t lobby their way past science,” Donnelly said. “The science is clear. This project poses a threat of extinction to this species.”

A bulldozer breaks ground at the Dixie Meadows geothermal project. Fox Peak is visible in the background. (Photo by Patrick Donnelly/Center for Biological Diversity)

The Dixie Valley toad is one of more than 200 species of plants and animals that live in Nevada and nowhere else in the world, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

Emergency listing is a rare step by the Service, which has only issued an emergency listing for one other species in the past two decades. Emergency listing takes effect immediately upon publication in the Federal Register and lasts for 240 days. Concurrently, the Service will publish a proposed rule to extend the listing beyond the initial period. The proposed rule will be finalized within 12 months.