Hearing Held in Odessa Regarding Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

by Anayeli Ruiz
NewsWest 9
ODESSA - The Dunes Sagebrush Lizard is on the forefront again. On Monday, several members of the State Natural Resources Committee were in town to talk about what would happen to oil and gas drilling if the lizard makes the Endangered Species List.
"The Permian Basin is a powerhouse and we didn't want a potential federal rule to shut down, slow or halt this incredibly important part of our Texas Economy," Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, said.
The U.S. Fish Wildlife Service was there to help explain how they will make their final decision.
"The debate is very much centered around two or three percent of the Permian Basin. We have a very good idea of about where these habitats are," Ben Tuggel, the Regional Director for U.S. Wildlife Service, said.
The Texas Comptrollers of Public Accounts has come up with a safety net for those to continue operating in case the lizard is listed as an endangered species and this plan will also help protect the habitat for this lizard.
"Even if it is listed, the oil and gas industry that is really fueling the economy can continue. That was the number one thing, what people will have to do is chop mesquite, do some things and have a plan that they voluntarily will do," Combs said.
So far, several land owners have voluntarily signed up to be on the back up plan.
"We have had major oil companies sign up. There may be a few acres that are duplicated but basically you got in here the University of Texas lands, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Conoco. I'm pleased with the response," Combs said. 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services says they will take these efforts of conservation into consideration.
"We have to stabilize the habitat and we have to look at opportunities to be able to create additional habitat into the future and have a stable environment by which that species can continue to be sustained," Tuggel said.
Scientists were able to talk about the different studies and the public was given a chance to comment. June 15th is the deadline and the decision to be made.