Oil Giants Battle Over 5-Inch Lizard

Dune sagebrush lizard may be listed as endangered in New Mexico
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2011 2:52 PM CDT
A dunes sagebrush lizard is seen in this file photo.   (US Fish and Wildlife Service)

(Newser) – To hear some politicians and lobbyists tell it, the fate of New Mexico’s oil industry rests on the fate of a five-inch lizard. The federal government is considering listing the dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered species, the Wall Street Journal reports, and that spooks the industry, because Sceloporous arenicolus is capable of surviving in only one habitat: the oil-rich dunes of New Mexico and west Texas. One industry group calls the area “the most prolific oil-producing region in onshore America.”

Some companies are already paying for conservation efforts, even as they fight the move. “The future of our state’s economy and livelihood of so many employers … are at stake,” New Mexico’s governor argued in a letter to regulators. But conservationists say the concerns are overblown; the lizard lives on about 600,000 of the 11 million acres in question. “They are totally baseless claims that are being made by politicians who feel there is political gain,” said one.

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