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Fish and Wildlife Service Delays Final Listing Decision for Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

Imperiled Reptile must Wait Six More Months for Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will delay making a final listing decision for dunes sagebrush lizard for six months. The agency proposed to list the lizard as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act in December 2010.The extension will allow the Service to solicit and consider additional scientific information on the species and its habitat.

“Conservationists support using all the best available science to make species listing decisions,  but we don’t see the need to delay listing in this case,” said Mark Salvo of WildEarth Guardians. “In the end, we expect the species to be listed.”

The dunes sagebrush lizard, also known as the sand dune lizard, occurs in sand dunes in shinnery oak grasslands in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. The species has the second smallest range of any lizard in North America and is extremely sensitive to disturbance, including oil and gas development. Scientists warned as early as 1997 that the lizard faced extinction without greater protections.

The dunes sagebrush lizard listing decision has been the subject of much controversy, most of it manufactured by Representative Steve Pearce (R-NM-2nd) and oil and gas industry spokesmen. They have asserted that listing the dunes sagebrush lizard under the Endangered Species Act will “shut down” oil and gas development in the Permian Basin and “devastate” economies in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. In fact, the lizard occupies a tiny patch of habitat in the basin and oil and gas drilling will be unaffected by conservation actions in more than 99 percent of the region if the lizard is listed.

“We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service wasn’t badgered into taking a delay by Representative Pearce and the oil and gas industry, who have declared a jihad against a 3-inch lizard,” said Salvo.

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