U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today welcomed a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to forego adding the Dunes Sagebrush (Sand Dune) Lizard to the Endangered Species List.
The Senators, who learned of the decision this morning, have been actively engaged with the administration as it determined whether listing the lizard was the best course of action based on science and in light of collaboration at the local level that led to Candidate Conservation Agreements.
"This is a great example of how voluntary cooperative agreements are being used to help protect a habitat and a species, while allowing oil and gas development to continue in southeastern New Mexico," Bingaman said. "I hope this process can serve as a model for the future."
"Today's decision is unprecedented in the history of the Endangered Species Act and represents a potential breakthrough in maximizing ecosystem preservation and minimizing conflict," said Udall. "It's the result of months of collaboration and serves as a testament to the positive efforts of New Mexico land agencies, ranchers and oil and gas producers who reached a compact that simultaneously protects the local economy and the lizard. The end-result proves that overheated political rhetoric and conflict are not the most effective way to resolve disputes over conservation, and I hope it will serve as a model for future agreements."
Last year, the New Mexico Senators urged the FWS to delay its decision on the lizard for a few months if it needed more time to analyze the related scientific data. The FWS honored that request.
Then in April, following meetings with FWS leadership, Udall and Bingaman praised the agency's efforts in working with ranchers, the oil and gas industry and the New Mexico State Land Office to protect the lizard, and urged the completion of similar agreements in Texas.
Later in the month, at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Udall also discussed the conservation efforts underway in New Mexico with testifying FWS Director Dan Ashe.
The Sand Dune Lizard is found only in the shinnery oak dunes of southeastern New Mexico and adjacent Texas.
After initially proposing federal endangered species status for the Sand Dunes Lizard in 2010, pursuant to a litigation settlement, the FWS worked with businesses and local interests to establish additional Candidate Conservation Agreements that will stabilize the species' population, foster habitat restoration, and allow the oil and gas, and agricultural industries to continue to thrive. More than 90 percent of the lizard's habitat in New Mexico is protected through the agreements.
The Center for Excellence in Hazardous Materials Management in Carlsbad, New Mexico is the unified permit holder under the CCAs and manages the conservation efforts with FWS and CCA participants.