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For Immediate Release, May 5, 2011

Contact: Jay Lininger, (928) 853-9929          

Pearce Asked to Immediately Release Data Said to Support Claims About Imperiled Lizard

 Center for Biological Diversity Demands Pearce Retract Claims If He Can't Produce Alleged “Information”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— In response to a report issued by the Center for Biological Diversity this week showing that the Bureau of Land Management has put less than 1 percent of its lands off limits to oil and gas drilling to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard, a spokesperson for Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) on Wednesday told the media that the congressman has “considerable information” to back up his claim that protecting the imperiled lizard is jeopardizing “most of the oil and gas jobs in southeast New Mexico.” The spokesperson stated that the data would be released later.

Today the Center for Biological Diversity is challenging Rep. Pearce to immediately release his supposed “data” or retract his undocumented assertions.

“It’s time for Pearce to put up or shut up,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center. “He has exaggerated, demagogued and flat-out lied about the dunes sagebrush lizard for months, spreading unwarranted fear across southeast New Mexico. All the while he hasn’t produced a lick of supporting evidence.”

Indeed, Pearce upped the ante yesterday with the incredible claim that: “It is impossible to believe that at least 4,084 oil and gas wells in the lizard’s habitat could be shut down without any economic detriment to the region.” No agency, including the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or state of New Mexico, has proposed shutting down 4,084 wells, or any wells for that matter, to protect the lizard. Pearce made up the threat out of whole cloth to support his politically motivated witch hunt.

“If he can’t produce the promised data immediately, while the entire state is watching, he needs to retract his wild assertions and apologize to the citizens of New Mexico,” said Suckling.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages endangered species, has stated that protection of the dunes sagebrush lizard “would not imperil jobs” and that “there’s just no data to support” Pearce’s claims.  

Protection for the lizard is unlikely to imperil jobs because the Fish and Wildlife Service almost never halts development activity. Rather, the agency sometimes requires modification of activity to ensure that species aren’t driven extinct.

Pearce has accepted nearly $1.2 million from oil and gas interests.

“Mr. Pearce’s story about endangered species killing jobs may earn him campaign cash, but it’s bad for democracy, which requires politicians to be honest and trustworthy,” Suckling said. 

According the Center’s report, which relies exclusively on BLM data, in 2010 and the first half of 2011 the BLM proposed 52,874 acres for oil and gas leasing in southeast New Mexico. Of that, 2,920 acres (5.5 percent) were identified by the BLM as habitat for the lizard. The agency determined that drilling could go forward on all 2,920 acres subject to conditions intended to protect habitat.

For the second half of 2011, the BLM has proposed 22,383 acres for leasing. At most, 3,484 acres may be habitat for the lizard, according to the BLM. The agency will allow drilling on 2,924 acres (84 percent of habitat) and defer leasing on 560 acres — which is less than 1 percent of all lands proposed for drilling — until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes a listing decision on the lizard.

The dunes sagebrush lizard has the second-smallest range of any North American lizard, living only in southeast New Mexico and western Texas on sand dunes covered by shinnery oak. Its dunes habitat has long been in decline.

The Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned for the lizard’s protection in 2002. In December 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed protecting the lizard under the Endangered Species Act.


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