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For Immediate Release, November 29, 2011

Contact: Jay Lininger, (928) 853-9929        

Report Debunks Oil and Gas Industry Hysteria Over Lizard Protection

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard Habitat Is Just 2 Percent of Lands in Permian Basin in Texas, New Mexico

MIDLAND, Texas— A new analysis released today by the Center for Biological Diversity debunks claims by the oil and gas industry and politicians in Texas and New Mexico that protecting the dunes sagebrush lizard will have “catastrophic” effects on oil and gas development. In fact, the lizard’s habitat occurs on just 2 percent of all lands in the Permian Basin.

“The facts just don’t back up the doom-and-gloom hysteria from the oil and gas industry,” said Jay Lininger, an ecologist with the Center and lead author of the report. “This lizard’s habitat is not significant compared to the scope of oil and gas development — development that, by the way, will continue even if the animal is protected by the Endangered Species Act.”

In Texas, using geographic information systems and spatial data supplied by the state of Texas and Texas A&M University, the Center analyzed lizard habitat distribution relative to developable oil and gas lands within the Texas portion of the Permian Basin. 
The analysis found that:

  • Within six Texas counties where lizard habitat occurs, that habitat makes up less than 5 percent of all lands.
  • Within those six counties, lizard habitat makes up about 5 percent of state lands where the state government collects oil and gas royalties.

In New Mexico, a previous analysis by the Center earlier this year that found that protecting the lizard in the New Mexico portion of the Permian Basin would affect less than 1 percent of public lands where drilling was proposed in 2010 and 2011.

Oil and gas extraction will continue in lizard habitat despite a federal listing because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is likely to require only reasonable measures to conserve populations, such as avoidance of occupied sites. The Service maintains that it is “absolutely not true” that protecting the lizard under the Endangered Species Act will prohibit development. Today’s report finds that nearly 5,000 new oil and gas wells would be created in lizard habitat under a habitat conservation plan proposed by the Texas comptroller of public accounts.

“While insignificant in terms of oil and gas acres, these last slivers of habitat are all the lizard has — and critical to preventing its extinction,” said Lininger. “Industry’s refusal to yield even an inch to prevent an extinction makes a stark case for federal protections.”

The Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned for the lizard’s protection in 2002. In December 2010, the Service proposed protecting the lizard under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to issue its decision by Dec. 14.

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