WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. government will not place the dunes sagebrush lizard, found in West Texas and New Mexico, on a protected species list, officials said.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said commitments to voluntary conservation agreements now in place in New Mexico and Texas that provide for the long-term conservation of the reptile’s habitat mean the species does not need to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
“This is a great example of how states and landowners can take early, landscape-level action to protect wildlife habitat before a species is listed under the Endangered Species Act,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a USFWS release.
Republican lawmakers in Texas had opposed a proposal to list the lizards, arguing such an action could put a halt to oil and gas exploration and production in parts of West Texas and New Mexico.
Oil and gas companies said listing the lizards as endangered would eliminate drilling across the Permian Basin, which produces about 20 percent of all oil production in the lower 48 U.S. states.
“The voluntary conservation efforts of Texas and New Mexico, oil and gas operators, private landowners and other stakeholders show that we don’t have to choose between energy development and the protection of our land and wildlife — we can do both,” Salazar said.