Seventy percent of habitat in conservation agreements.
If enough oil companies and ranchers in the state of Texas agree to preserve the habitat of the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus), it won't have to be listed as endangered, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday while visiting a ConocoPhilips site near Midland, Texas. According to a report in the San Antonio Express, the federal government is making progress with volunteer conservation agreements with the energy companies. In a nutshell, the energy companies keep their rights to drill for oil as long as they work to preserve the habitat of the sagebrush lizard, which lives near shinnery oak trees in West Texas and New Mexico. These steps include designating buffers around the dunes in which the lizards live and removing unused well pads and adjacent roads. If a lizard is accidentally killed on the conservation lands, the companies will be not held liable.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is under a court-ordered June deadline to determine whether to list the lizard as an endangered species. The decision to act was delayed by six months due to congressional pressure after U.S. Sen. John Cornyn R-Texas, and other lawmakers questioned the survey methods the agency undertook when studying the lizard.
Salazar said that approximately 95 percent of the lizard's shinnery oak habitat in New Mexico have been enrolled in conservation agreements, and 70 percent of the reptile's habitat in Texas has been enrolled since the plan was announced in February.