For Immediate Release, March 13, 2012
Contact: Jay Lininger, (928) 853-9929
Analysis: Voluntary State Plans Will Not Save Rare Dunes Sagebrush Lizard;
Endangered Species Act Protections Are Needed
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity submitted comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today demonstrating that a conservation plan developed by a coalition of Texas groups and agencies won’t ensure enough benefits for the rare dunes sagebrush lizard to avoid the need to protect the lizard under the Endangered Species Act.
“In the absence of Endangered Species Act protection, there is no certainty this Texas plan will ever be implemented or effective,” said Jay Lininger, an ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Since the state of Texas paid absolutely zero attention to this disappearing lizard until it was proposed for legal protection, we have real questions about what will happen once the threat of legal protections goes away.”
The Center’s comments analyzed the plan under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “policy for evaluating conservation efforts,” which looks at factors related to whether conservation plans are likely to be implemented and effective and therefore erase the need for federal protection. This analysis found that the conservation plan for the dunes sagebrush lizard is unlikely to conserve the lizard because it lacks certain funding, is voluntary and prescribes vague measures with unknown effectiveness. Indeed, Susan Combs, Texas’s state comptroller, has called the plan “purely voluntary.”
Texas hosts approximately 197,000 acres, or one-third, of all dunes sagebrush lizard habitat across six counties. About 5 percent of all lands in those counties are lizard habitat, and about 1 percent of state-owned lands funding education contain lizard habitat, according to the Center.
Voluntary measures to conserve habitat on private lands will not keep the dunes sagebrush lizard alive because they are not in the profit-motivated interest of industry.
“The Texas Oil and Gas Association has said that its members will not voluntarily give one inch to the endangered lizard, even on less than 2 percent of the Permian Basin,” Lininger said. “That makes a very strong case for federal, not voluntary, protection.”
The Center petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered species in 2002. A decision is expected later this year. Oil and gas development is the primary threat to the lizard’s specialized sand dune habitat, according to the Service.