Thursday, October 8, 2015
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Sagebrush lizard taken off endangered species listing
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the dunes sagebrush lizard does not need the protection of the Endangered Species Act because unprecedented voluntary conservation agreements now in place in New Mexico and Texas will ensure the long-term protection and recovery of the species. The Service is therefore withdrawing its proposal to add the lizard to the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to a June 13 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release.
State-led voluntary conservation efforts to protect existing shinnery oak dune habitat and reduce the impact of oil and gas development across the species’ range now cover 90 percent of the lizard’s habitat in New Mexico and 70 percent of its habitat in Texas. These measures also minimize the anticipated impacts of other threats, such as off-road vehicle traffic, wind and solar development, and increased predation caused by development.
The Endangered Species Act requires that listing decisions be based solely on the best available science. A species is listed as endangered when it is threatened with extinction through all or a significant portion of its range.
Since the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the rule to list the dunes sagebrush lizard in December 2010, the Service has received and reviewed a wide range of scientific information, including new information. For example, information provided by the Bureau of Land Management and Texas A&M University has enabled the Service to refine mapping of dunes sagebrush lizard suitable and occupied shinnery oak dune habitat in New Mexico and Texas. This effort has identified more known occupied sites for the lizard, especially in Texas.
After a careful analysis of new peer-reviewed scientific data and the additional protections provided by the voluntary conservation efforts, Service biologists determined the lizard is neither in danger of extinction nor likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.
An estimated 70 percent of the lizard’s habitat in Texas is now enrolled under the Texas Plan. The plan provides a suite of conservation measures over 30 years that will avoid and minimize adverse effects to dunes sagebrush lizard habitat, while also providing mitigation to restore habitat that was previously developed.
The withdrawal of the proposed rule is available for review at http://www.regulations.gov.
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