Fate of Dunes Sagebrush Lizard Decided

Staff Report
NewsWest 9

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A contentious battle over a rare lizard found only in New Mexico and West Texas' oil and gas country has taken a surprising turn with federal officials deciding not to bestow endangered species protections on the small reptile.

The decision was being announced Wednesday in Washington, D.C., by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico says conservation agreements reached with many landowners in the dunes sagebrush lizard's habitat helped avoid a listing.

He says the case of the lizard should be used as a model for solving endangered species issues.

The Fish and Wildlife Service initially pushed off a final decision following an outcry from members of Congress and communities that rely on oil and gas development for jobs and tax revenue.

Environmentalists are calling the decision "unfortunate." They have accused the Fish and Wildlife Service of caving to political pressure and energy interests.