ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – Wildlife organizations are fighting to protect a threatened lizard species that live in New Mexico and Texas, but now, they’re getting push back from the oil and gas industry.
The Dunes Sagebrush Lizard is less than three inches long and has been eligible to be placed on the endangered species list since the 1980s. Now, there’s a push to urge U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to finally place them on that list, so they can be protected in their own habitat.
“The lizards have vanished from about 86% of the locations that they’re known from,” says Chris Nagano, Senior Scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Nagano says the lizards are typically found in the Mescalero Sand Dunes near Roswell, and areas in West Texas. Nagano says the reason why they have been disappearing is because of constant oil drilling, which has resulted in about 40% of the loss of their habitat.
Wildlife organizations have been blaming the oil and gas industry for constant fracking, resulting in the decline of the lizard’s population. Back in 2011, former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson addressed the controversy surrounding the preservation efforts for the lizards, even throwing in a few jokes.
“Roads and pads will be in the way of the lizards moving around in its habitat, and therefore that’s bad. In another section, it says if the lizard crosses the road, it’s going to get run over. You can’t have it both ways. Either the roads are a problem and it won’t cross them or the roads are a problem and it gets squashed,” he said.
This month, the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife filed an intent o sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services for violating the Endangered Species Act. They claim the lizards were not listed on the endangered species list in a timely manner.
The wildlife organizations are going to give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services 60-days to respond. If they don’t, a lawsuit will be filed.
Scientists don’t want the oil and gas industry to completely stop drilling in the lizard’s habitat. They just want to come up with a plan that will make both parties happy.