The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has kicked off a new year-long review to determine if the dunes sagebrush lizard should be designated as a federal endangered species, Kallanish Energy reports.
It is found only in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico and that puts it at risk from oil and natural gas drilling and sand mining.
The agency said the lizard with its 3-inch-long body may deserve federal protection.
The notice of what is called a status review was printed on Thursday in the Federal Register.
Such a designation could impact O&G operators as would preserving key habitat for the lizards.
The lizard was first identified as needing protection in 1982 and was proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2010.
But opposition from the oil and gas industry prevented that from happening.
“It’s been in the fight of its life against the behemoth oil and gas industry,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement. “Federal protection is that stands between the dunes sagebrush lizard and extinction.”
The lizards are at risk because of increased oil and natural gas drilling and sand mining in West Texas and New Mexico where the lizards are found.
They are found in rolling white sand dunes with scrubby shinnery oaks in southeast New Mexico and in four counties in West Texas where drilling is booming.
Their numbers are in decline and the species is severely imperiled, the conservation groups say.
The federal agency agreed to conduct the new review in a settlement after it had been sued by conservation groups.
The suit had been filed in 2019 in federal court in Washington, D.C.
In 2018, the groups had petitioned the agency to list the species as threatened or endangered and to designate critical habitat for the lizards.
The lizard remains without any federal protection, critics say.
In 2010, the federal agency proposed an endangered listing for the lizards. In 2012, Fish and Wildlife declined to list the species after approving a hastily drafted conservation plan submitted by Texas officials. That plan was later rescinded as ineffective in late 2018.
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