For Immediate Release, June 15, 2022

Contact:

Shaye Wolf, (415) 385-5746, swolf@biologicaldiversity.org

Temblor Legless Lizard Wins California Endangered Species Act Protections

Lizard Threatened by Oil Drilling Will Be Protected During Yearlong Review

LOS ANGELES— In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Fish and Game Commission unanimously agreed today to protect the Temblor legless lizard under the state’s Endangered Species Act. The move grants legal protection to the rare lizards for at least a year.

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.

“It warms my heart that these rare lizards will be safe to burrow, hunt and breed, protected from the oil drilling that threatens their existence,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center. “These imperiled animals have just five areas they call home, and they’re mostly surrounded by damaging oil drilling. Now we need the state to move quickly to finalize these protections before the fossil fuel industry wipes out these beautiful lizards forever.”

The vote to grant the lizard candidate status affirms the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s April recommendation. 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 these 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, and there have been 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. In March the Center filed a lawsuit over the agency’s delay in determining whether the lizard warrants protection.

RSTemblor_legless_lizard_A_alexanderae_by_Alex_Krohn_FPWC_media_use_approved
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.