Compromise Reached to Save Lizard Species
The Texas oil and gas industry let out a collective sigh of relief when a local lizard was left off the endangered species list. But the industry’s work to make sure it can continue drilling in West Texas has only just begun.
Let’s meet the little guy that’s caused such a fuss, the dunes sagebrush lizard. “Well, it’s sort of a nondescript-looking lizard, it’s brown,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the Southwest regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It lives in the dune and swale areas that are unique to that portion of east New Mexico and West Texas.”
That’s the same part of West Texas that has seen a boom in drilling in recent years. And as the drilling went up, the lizard population went down, and appeared to be headed for the endangered species list.
But then Texas came up with a plan. Drillers would voluntarily take steps to protect the lizard.
Those vary based on what the drilling site is like. But let’s say a company wants to drill under one of the lizard’s dunes for oil. Instead of setting up right on top of it, they can move the drill away and access those deposits horizontally.
Now what if even after all of these conservation efforts, the lizard still struggles? Could it be put on the list at a later point?
“Absolutely,” Tuggle said. “If the measures that we’ve designed don’t accomplish those goals, then we still have the option and have the responsibility of bringing up a potential listing for the lizard again.”
Drillers will now submit monthly and quarterly reports on their conservation efforts, and Fish and Wildlife says it’ll be looking out for red flags.