Feds Deny Protection to Dunes Sagebrush Lizard
Tiny Reptile must Defend Itself Against Oil and Gas Industry
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced today that the
federal government has withdrawn its proposed listing rule for the dunes
sagebrush lizard. The Service proposed to list the species as “endangered” in
2010, but after eighteen months of study, determined not to protect the species
under the Endangered Species Act.
“Biologically, there is no species more
deserving of listing than the dunes sagebrush lizard,” said Mark Salvo,
Wildlife Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “We hope the species can
persist without federal protection.”
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 one of the smallest
ranges 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
asserted that listing the dunes sagebrush lizard would “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 would have been unaffected by conservation
actions in more than 99 percent of the region if the lizard was listed.
“We hope the Secretary and the Fish and
Wildlife Service weren’t badgered into withdrawing the listing proposal by
Representative Pearce and the oil and gas industry, who have declared a jihad
against a 3-inch lizard,” said Salvo.