May 23, 2002
Contact: Noah Greenwald, 520-623-5252 x. 312
A rare New Mexican lizard requires protection under the Endangered Species Act contends two environmental groups. The Center for Biological Diversity and Chihuahuan Desert Conservation Alliance petitioned Secretary of Interior Gale Norton today to add the Sand Dune Lizard to the list of federally endangered species.
The Sand Dune Lizard has the second smallest range of any lizard in North America, only occurring in southeastern New Mexico and western Texas on sand dunes covered by shinnery oak. This unique plant is often only 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 narrow crescent shaped area of beautiful rolling dunes in southeastern New Mexico. "The Sand Dune Lizard occurs in one of the most exceptional, but least protected areas of New Mexico and Texas," notes Noah Greenwald a conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Sand Dune Lizard is threatened on both public and private lands by oil and gas development and herbicide spraying to benefit livestock grazing. Under President Bush's energy policy, habitat loss to oil and gas leasing is rapidly increasing, resulting in dramatic losses of sand dune lizard habitat.
Because shin-oak is toxic to cattle for a couple of months every year and competes with grasses preferred by livestock, many ranchers remove the plant using the herbicide Tebuthiuron, devastating Sand Dune Lizard populations. "Continued destruction of the Sand Dune Lizard's native habitat is driving it to extinction," states Greenwald, adding: "the Sand Dune Lizard needs immediate protection from the ravages of herbicide spraying and oil and gas drilling,"
Endangered listing for the Sand Dune Lizard will require limits on herbicide spraying and oil and gas drilling, designation of critical habitat, additional funding for research, and development of a recovery plan. "Listing of the Sand Dune Lizard as an endangered species is critical to save it from the brink of extinction," concludes Greenwald.
The 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 in Texas.