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Rare Texas Lizard Could Gain Endangered Status

Government Issues Positive Finding on Guardians' Petition

Washington, DC-May 23.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is publishing a decision in tomorrow’s Federal Register that the Spot-tailed Earless Lizard warrants further review for protection (listing) under the Endangered Species Act.  The decision comes in response to a January 2010 petition filed by WildEarth Guardians.

“The spot-tailed lizard is in decline and would greatly benefit from legal safeguards under the Endangered Species Act,” stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.  “Facing threats from fire ants, agricultural chemicals, and destruction of its prairie habitat, the lizard needs a helping hand.”

In its decision, the Service recognized threats to this lizard from predation by non-native fire ants, which can kill lizard adults, hatchlings, and eggs. Habitat destruction can facilitate fire ant invasions.

Guardians demonstrated in its petition that a variety of threats – alongside fire ants – are pushing this lizard to extinction. These include agricultural chemicals, climate change, habitat loss, and a driver of these threats – human population growth. Scientists believe agricultural chemicals are the top threat to the lizards along with loss of habitat to cropland and development.

This lizard occurs in Texas and northern Mexico. While the Service recognized climate change may imperil this species, the agency refrained from officially finding it to be a threat to the species. However, Guardians’ petition showed that, under climate change predictions, if the lizard’s range gets hotter and drier or wetter, the lizard loses in either scenario. They may not be able to keep their skin moist enough during longer, hotter droughts. More rain would increase plant growth and height, forcing the animals out of their territory.

Guardians petitioned the Spot-tailed Earless Lizard (Holbrookia lacerata) as part of “Prairie Week” during its BioBlitzes in 2010.  Other species for which Guardians took action (either petitions or lawsuits) during Prairie Week were: the Platte River caddisfly, prairie chub, Texas kangaroo rat, and the Scott’s riffle beetle. The prairie chub and Texas kangaroo rat received positive petition findings earlier this year and are currently the subject of Endangered Species Act status reviews.


 

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