Today, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) made the announcement that it will not list the Sand Dune Lizard under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, spoke today with Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe who informed him that the listing of the Sand Dune Lizard ultimately was not necessary due to the tremendous voluntary efforts by local, state and private landowners to preserve the species. Senator Inhofe applauded the decision and said that it bodes well for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken decision, as Oklahoma's voluntary efforts are producing the same successful results.
"Today's decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service not to list the Sand Dune Lizard under the Endangered Species Act is great news for Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico," Senator Inhofe said. "This listing was prevented by the tremendously successful cooperation between local, state and private landowners working together to save the Sand Dune Lizard -- and Oklahoma is having the same success in stabilizing the Lesser Prairie-Chicken population. I was very encouraged by Director Ashe's assurance today that Oklahoma has the "right ingredients' for a similar decision on the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.
"Oklahomans have put millions of dollars and much time into preserving the species and the results are clear: voluntary efforts and partnerships produce better results than heavy handed regulations from the federal government, which can kill jobs and harm economies, while having little effect on helping the species survive and recover.
"I greatly appreciate that Director Ashe took the time to inform me personally of this decision, and for taking the voluntary efforts by Texans and Oklahomans seriously. I look forward to more good news for Oklahoma and the Lesser Prairie-Chicken soon."
On November 30, 2011 Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Inhofe sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar asking that the FWS delay the listing decision for the Sand Dune Lizard due to concerns about disputes in the scientific data. On December 1, 2011, FWS announced that it would postpone the listing decision for six months.
Senator Inhofe was pleased to welcome Director Dan Ashe to Oklahoma last September to listen to Oklahomans' concerns about how a listing of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken would negatively affect agriculture, the construction of highway infrastructure, and energy development, especially wind development projects in the Woodward area. Importantly, Director Ashe heard about the extensive voluntary efforts underway in Oklahoma to increase the number of Lesser Prairie-Chickens.
At an Environment and Public Works hearing in April 2012, Director Ashe gave Senator Inhofe his assurance that FWS 'will provide as much flexibility as [it] can' for Oklahoma as FWS goes forward with a listing decision for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. He also said that he sees Oklahoma as a 'leader' in voluntary efforts.