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For Immediate Release, November 4, 2009

Contact:  Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 490-0223

Court Reconsiders Threatened Status for Flat-tailed Horned Lizard

PHOENIX, Ariz.— In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson Herpetological Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and others, a federal district court in Arizona ruled late Tuesday that the flat-tailed horned lizard once again is a proposed threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The district court’s reinstatement of the proposed listing rule follows a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in May 2009 that overturned an Interior Department decision to deny protection to the species.

Since the vanishing lizard was first proposed for listing in 1993, the proposal had been withdrawn three times, with conservation groups successfully challenging each withdrawal in court. Meanwhile, the species’ habitat has fallen prey to additional destruction.

“The flat-tailed horned lizard is severely threatened by urban and agricultural sprawl and off-road vehicles. It desperately needs protection as an endangered species to survive,” said Ileene Anderson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Ninth Circuit decision rejected a Bush-administration policy developed by the solicitor of the Department of the Interior in 2007 that required the Fish and Wildlife Service to ignore loss of historic range when determining if species warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“In the intervening years since first proposed in 1993, the flat-tailed horned lizard’s plight has only gotten worse,” said Anderson. “We challenge the new administration to break with the Bush administration agenda and finally provide protection for this disappearing species.”
The flat-tailed horned lizard inhabits portions of the deserts of Southern California (Riverside, Imperial, and San Diego counties), Arizona (Yuma county), and northwestern Mexico (Sonora, Baja California). It is severely threatened by habitat destruction caused by urban and agricultural sprawl, off-road vehicles, and other threats.

The groups involved in the latest court challenge include the Tucson Herpetological Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Horned Lizard Conservation Society, and Sierra Club, who were represented by attorneys Neil Levine, a private attorney, and Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. The Department of the Interior is required to make a final decision about the status of the flat-tailed horned lizard by November 2010.

As the common name suggests, the species is recognized by its broad, flattened tail but also has long, sharp horns on its head, two rows of fringe scales along its abdomen, a dark stripe along its backbone, and concealed external ear openings. Adults range in size between 2.5 and 4.3 inches long, excluding the tail.

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