Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Ruling on dunes sagebrush lizard likely on Thursday

SANTA FE — A day of decision is finally near for the West's most-publicized reptile.
The Obama administration probably will announce Thursday if the dunes sagebrush lizard will be listed as an endangered species, said Tom Buckley, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Albuquerque.
An occupant of wind-swept dunes in oil country, the lizard exists only in four counties of southeastern New Mexico and four others in West Texas.
Buckley said today the announcement on the lizard's status probably would be made in Washington. He expects either Interior Secretary Ken Salazar or Daniel Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, to make the finding public.
Debate over whether the lizard should receive federal protection has raged for 18 months. Ashe in December postponed his scheduled ruling on lizard, saying he wanted another six months to consider scientific data.
Numerous Republicans in Congress, especially Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico, have argued against endangered status for the lizard. Pearce said thousands of jobs in the oil and gas industry would be in jeopardy if the lizard were listed.
The Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups then accused Pearce of spreading misinformation to scare the public.
Ecologists with the center said the lizard occupies only about 1 percent of public lands in New Mexico where oil drilling was proposed in the last two years.

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