Center for Biological Diversity and Chihuahuan Desert
Alliance petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on
May 28, 2002 to list the sand dune lizard as an endangered
under the Endangered Species Act.
sand dune lizard has the second smallest range of any lizard
endemic to North America, only occurring in a narrow crescent
shaped area of southeastern New Mexico and western Texas.
Within this range, the sand dune lizard only occurs on sand
dune "blowouts" topped by the unusual shinnery oak. Such habitats
occur in a highly fragmented distribution, increasing the
sand dune lizard's likelihood of extinction.
oak is often just 4-5' tall, but can be thousands of years
old and comprises the largest stand of oak in the country.
The heart of the sand dune lizard's range is the Mescalero
Sands-a beautiful area of rolling dunes in southeastern New
Mexico-found on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management
and threatened by oil and gas development and herbicide spraying.
large blowout and shinnery dunes in the central part of the
range (Mescalero Sands north of Hwy 380). The mound formations
- coppices form as a result of wind erosin and obviously indicate
substantial sand transport (habitat movement).
President Bush's energy policy, already rampant oil and gas
development is rapidly increasing on federal lands, resulting
in dramatic losses of sand dune lizard habitat. Controlled
studies found that relatively small numbers of oil and gas
wells resulted in dramatically lower sand dune lizard populations.
loss related to oil and gas development is compounded by herbicide
spraying to remove shinnery oak for the benefit of cattle.
Shinnery oak is toxic to cattle for a couple of months every
year and competes with grasses and other forage and thus many
ranchers would rather see this native plant dead. Like oil
and gas development, herbicide spraying has been demonstrated
to result in severe sand dune lizard population declines.
the severity of the threats to the sand dune lizard, the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service recently made it a candidate for
listing, giving it the highest priority for action a species
sand dune lizard is a small, brown lizard that buries itself
in sand to avoid predators and regulate its body temperature.
It occurs in Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Roosevelt Counties in New
Mexico and Andrews, Crane, Gaines, Ward and Winkler Counties