Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 14, 2022


Shaye Wolf, (415) 385-5746,

Temblor Legless Lizard Gets Closer to California Endangered Species Protection

Oil Drilling Imperils Rare Central California Lizard

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The California Department of Fish and Wildlife today recommended that the Temblor legless lizard move toward protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act. The action came in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Temblor legless lizard is an unusual sand-swimming reptile found only in Kern and Fresno counties in the southwestern San Joaquin Valley. The survival of the species is jeopardized by extensive oil and gas drilling in its narrow range.

“I’m elated these unique lizards are closer to protection from oil industry pollution,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center. “The oil and gas industry’s rampant drilling is rapidly destroying the little remaining habitat these animals have left. The state must act quickly to protect these rare lizards before the fossil fuel industry wipes them out.”

Last November the Center petitioned the state to protect Temblor legless lizards under the California Endangered Species Act. In June California’s Fish and Game Commission will decide whether to accept the department’s recommendation and grant these imperiled lizards candidate status under state law.

A candidate designation triggers a yearlong review of whether the species should be formally protected under the state act. The species is legally protected during the review period.

The Temblor legless lizard is currently known to live at only five sites in Kern and Fresno counties, four of which are within oilfield boundaries and surrounded by extensive oil and gas development. In total, 31 oilfields overlap the lizard’s restricted range and more than 98% of its habitat is open to oil and gas development.

Oil and gas drilling threatens the Temblor legless lizard by destroying and fragmenting its habitat, compacting the soil, changing soil moisture levels, removing plant cover, and spilling oil and chemicals. Oil and produced-water spills are rampant in the lizard’s restricted range, including at least 20 surface spills in the past few years.

The Temblor legless lizard is also threatened by urban and industrial development, invasive grasses and non-native wild pigs, as well as rising temperatures and drier conditions caused by climate change.

In 2019 experts on the species recommended listing the Temblor legless lizard under both the California Endangered Species Act and federal law.

The Center petitioned for federal Endangered Species Act protection for the Temblor legless lizard in October 2020. In June 2021 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the species may qualify for protection. Last month the Center filed a lawsuit over the agency’s delay in determining whether the lizard warrants protection.

Temblor legless lizard. Photo by Alex Krohn. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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