Endangered Species Protection Sought For Dunes Sagebrush Lizard
May 8, 2018
The dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) is in need of Endangered Species Act protections, according to the Center of Biological Diversity, which just filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the tiny lizard. The lizard, found primarily in the Permian Basin of West Texas and in New Mexico, was not listed as an endangered species by the service because a voluntary plan to protect the species set up by the Texas Habitat Conservation Foundation, a foundation set up specifically to protect the reptile, failed to protect the lizard, according to the center. That plan, at the time championed by then-Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, who worked with oil and gas companies that administered the plan, the USFWS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and various Texas agencies, was scrapped in February 2018 and is supposed to be rewritten. It was first written in 2011 and was never released to the public.
Much of the dunes sagebrush lizard's habitat is found in oil rich west Texas.
“Dunes sagebrush lizards have waited too long for the federal protection they desperately need to survive,” Chris Nagano, a senior scientist at the Center said in a statement released to the media. “The only reason these rare lizards aren’t already protected is political interference by Susan Combs and the oil and gas industry, which is rapidly destroying the animals’ habitat.”
According to the Center, the 2011 plan to conserve the dunes sagebrush was never released to the public and kept the individual habitat-protection agreements with landowners confidential and the USFWS has no idea where habitat was protected and how much habitat was protected.
“Without our listing petition to compel action, the dunes sagebrush lizard is at great risk of going extinct in Texas. FWS failed the lizard in 2012 by declining to list the species and now has another chance to heed the science and get it right,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO for Defenders of Wildlife. “Defenders has been sounding the alarm for years that the Texas Conservation Plan is unable to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard or its habitat. Our petition explains how the plan has failed to properly address oil and gas development in lizard habitat and is incapable of managing the fast-growing threat of sand mining. The lizard is in greater peril now than it was when the plan was adopted and plainly needs the protections of the Act. Until it is protected, FWS should work with the Texas Comptroller's office and stakeholders to revise the flawed Texas Conservation Plan so that it actually conserves the lizard.”
Susan Combs is now Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the U.S. Department of the Interior.