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Public Backs Dunes Sagebrush Lizard Protection

November 1, 2011
Mark Salvo (503) 757-4221
In This Release
Climate + Energy   Dunes sagebrush lizard
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Public Backs Dunes Sagebrush Lizard Protection

Protection Petition Surges Past 7,000 Signatures as White House Rejects Opposition Petition for Drawing Only 1,700 Signers
Contact: Mark Salvo (503) 757-4221

Additional Contacts:

TaylorMcKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713

Leda Huta, Endangered Species Coalition, (240) 353-2765

DALLAS—Environmentalists announced today that theirpetition on the White House’s “We the People” website seeking to have thedunes sagebrush lizard placed on the federal endangered species list hasgarnered more than 7,000 signatures in less than two weeks.

Thepetition has drawn vastly more public support than oneplaced on the White House site by oil and gas industry supporters askingthat Endangered Species Act protection be denied. That petition garnered just1,700 signers and was taken down by theWhite House for failing to garner 5,000 signatures within 30 days.

“TheAmerican public supports protecting the sagebrush lizard. The public saw rightthrough the oil industry’s hysterical claim that saving the lizard fromextinction would shut down oil drilling,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Centerfor Biological Diversity. “Lizard habitat makes up less than 2 percent of thePermian Basin oil-drilling zone. It has had very little impact on oildrilling.”

Thedunes sagebrush lizard has declined toward extinction as its habitat has been destroyedand fragmented by oil and gas drilling and herbicide spraying. The U.S. Fishand Wildlife Service determined that it merited listing as an endangeredspecies in 2001 and in 2010 published a proposed rule to place it on thefederal endangered species list. The proposal was supported by independentscientific peer-reviewers. A final decision on the proposal is due by Dec. 16,2011.

“Thesuccess of the pro-protection petition shows that the American people caredeeply about protecting the dunes sagebrush lizard,” said Leda Huta, executivedirector of the Endangered Species Coalition. “The USFWS declaredthe lizard one of its highest priorities 10 years ago, and we are gladthey are finally going to offer it the protection it needs. We owe it to futuregenerations of Americans to protect endangered species and the special placesthey call home.”

Thoughthe dunes sagebrush lizard’s habitat spans less than 2 percent of the entireoil-rich Permian Basin, industry-backed politicians Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.)and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) have asserted that protecting the lizard willshut down essentially all oil drilling, causing an economic catastrophe in NewMexico and Texas, as well as a nationwide oil shortage. The U.S. Fish andWildlife Service has called the claim false.

“Industryis trying to make the dunes sagebrush lizard into Godzilla, needlessly scaringcitizens to score political points,” said Mark Salvo of WildEarth Guardians.“There is no reason to be afraid of this three-inch reptile.”

AMay 2011 reportby the Center for Biological Diversity found that the Bureau of Land Managementdeferred oil and gas leasing on only 560 acres in New Mexico to conserve lizardhabitat in 2010 — less than 1 percent of public lands proposed for oil and gasdevelopment. In Texas, the State Comptroller and Land Commissioner jointlyfound that only 3 percent of dunes sagebrush lizard habitat overlaps with oiland gas land.


Other Contact
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713