Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release Friday, January 3, 2003.

Bush administration denies legal protection of flat-tailed horned lizard

Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist, Center for Biological Diversity 909.659.6053 x 306
Bill Snape, Attorney, Defenders of Wildlife 202.682.9400 x 1

WASHINGTON DC -- Today, the Bush administration denied endangered species act protection for the imperiled flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii), an attractive Sonoran desert native that looks like a mini-dinosaur.

"This unjustified denial of desert wildlife protection continues the president's anti-environmental policies and ensures more litigation." said Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "This political decision is a favor to industry that flies in the face of biological facts and the compelling national interest for wildlife conservation."

The flat-tailed horned lizard is a small desert reptile that inhabits portions of the Sonoran Desert in southern California, Arizona, and northern Mexico.

The main cause for the decline of the flat-tailed horned lizard is conversion of habitat to urban and agricultural uses. The various uses include crops, cities, off-road vehicle use, geothermal leases, military maneuvers, gravel pits, highways, etc. Other factors responsible for the decline of this species include the use of pesticides on crops. Pesticide drift is thought to affect ant populations in adjacent habitat.

A typical flat-tailed horned lizard measures approximately 3.3 inches from snout to vent, and has two rows of fringed scales on either side of the body with a dark stripe along its backbone. Flat-tailed horned lizards feed primarily on native harvester ants, consuming 150-200 ants per day.

A proposed rule to list the species as threatened was published in the Federal Register on November 29, 1993. On July 15, 1997, the US Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew its proposal to list the flat-tailed horned lizard as threatened.

The decision to withdraw the proposed listing was challenged in court by conservationists. On October 24, 2001, the District Court ordered the Service to reinstate the 1993 proposed rule to list the lizard as threatened and to make a new final listing determination for the species. Today, the Service withdrew that rule, denying legal protection for the lizard.

Species ecology information:


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