AUSTIN (KXAN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that a listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard as a threatened or endangered species is not warranted.
The Texas Conservation Plan, led by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, is a major reason the lizard was not listed.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and FWS Director Dan Ashe made the announcement after the federal agency reviewed data about the lizard for more than a year.
"This is a major victory for Texas jobs and our energy economy," Combs said. "Working with energy producers and other stakeholders, we were able to enroll nearly 250,000 acres in West Texas as part of the Texas Conservation Plan. This decision proves we don't have to choose between the environment and our economy, but can be good stewards of both. Energy exploration is the economic lifeblood of West Texas, and I am delighted we were able to come up with a creative solution that protects paychecks, property rights and jobs."
FWS approved the plan in February. The Texas Comptroller's office will hold the permit for the Texas Conservation Plan, which allows landowners, oil and gas companies, farmers and ranchers in the Permian Basin to enter into voluntary conservation agreements benefiting the dunes sagebrush lizard.
Combs strongly opposed any listing of the lizard due to a lack of scientific data.
"I would like to thank all the stakeholders involved in developing the Texas Conservation Plan and all those who have voluntarily enrolled in the plan," Combs said. "I want to express a special word of gratitude to U.S. Senator John Cornyn for securing a six-month extension from federal officials. This allowed us the time to compile the scientific data and create a plan that ultimately prevented the listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard."
The range of the dunes sagebrush lizard is in parts of the Permian Basin, a region which, according to the University of Texas of the Permian Basin's Center for Energy and Economic Diversification, produces more than one million barrels of oil a day – 68 percent of Texas' total production and 20 percent of the production of the lower 48 states.
The TCP was developed in collaboration with stakeholders including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas A&M University, University Lands, Texas Oil and Gas Association, Texas Royalty Council, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Wildlife Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Late Wednesday, the Texas Public Policy Foundation Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment reacted to the announcement.
"Today's decision not to list the dunes sagebrush lizard has spared Texas from strict federal land use controls on private lands, which would have stalled Texas' historic boom in oil and gas production. It was the correct decision, legally and scientifically," stated Kathleen Hartnett white, agency director.
"Decisions to list species under the Endangered Species Act should be based on rigorous science. However, the initial attempts to list the dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered or threatened species were not based on sufficient data that was specific to Texas."
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