Saying that voluntary conservation efforts have proved adequate enough, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the dunes sagebrush lizard will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
State-led voluntary conservation efforts to protect existing shinnery oak dune habitat and greatly reduce the impact of oil and gas development across the species’ range now cover over 650,000 acres in New Mexico and Texas, totaling 88 percent of the lizard’s habitat, Fish and Wildlife said.
“These ongoing efforts will play a key role in ensuring the future of the lizard, while allowing responsible oil and gas development to continue,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison called the announcement “welcome news.”
“It shows how common sense can prevail when federal regulators work with local governments and other interested parties,” she said. “I’m pleased to see the Service listened to our arguments before making its decision. Listing the Sagebrush Lizard would have had a detrimental effect on farmers and ranchers in West Texas.”
Energy companies had expressed concern that an endangered species listing could slow production and affect jobs.
New Mexico Republican Steve Pearce had also been lobbying hard against a listing by the administration.
“New Mexicans came to the table, and through good faith efforts, voluntarily protected more than 93% of the lizard’s habitat,” Pearce said in April. “Local and state officials, private stakeholders and conservationists put millions of dollars and acres into this plan to avoid a listing. This is undoubtedly one of the most successful CCAAs ever. The willingness of New Mexicans to conserve the habitat and species serves as a fine example of what we can do when the federal government takes input from all sides, and tries to find common ground.”
Fish and Wildlife said that since proposing the rule to list the lizard in December 2010, it had “received and reviewed a wide range of scientific information” that brought it to this conclusion.
Still, said the ruling, “The Service will closely monitor the conservation measures to ensure they are being implemented and effectively address identified threats. The Service can reevaluate whether the dunes sagebrush lizard requires Endangered Species Act protection.”