The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) commended today's decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to not list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as an endangered species as a significant victory for private landowners and stakeholders in West Texas who spent more than a year developing and implementing voluntary conservation agreements that protect the species without federal intervention.
TWA expressed gratitude for TWA Director and Texas Comptroller Susan Combs and the working group she assembled, which included representatives of TWA, in developing voluntary solutions that positively impacted the decision by federal wildlife officials to withdrawal its proposal to add the lizard to the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act.
"This is a big step forward for private land stewards and the recognition by federal officials of their voluntary efforts to conserve a particular species," said Glen Webb, TWA President.
"This is a huge triumph for the argument for peer-reviewed science. The Service had not really been receptive to that, and I think everybody pushing on that through the Texas Wildlife Association and all of the ag groups made a huge difference," said Comptroller Combs.
"This is a great example of how states and landowners are taking early, landscape-level action to protect a creature and its habitat before it requires the protection of the Endangered Species Act," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "The voluntary conservation efforts of Texas and New Mexico, oil and gas operators, private landowners and other stakeholders show that we don't have to choose between energy development and the protection our land and wildlife - we can do both."
In Texas (home to about 27 percent of total lizard habitat), the USFWS signed a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) in February, 2012, with Comptroller Combs that provides for the conservation of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard in Texas while ensuring regulatory predictability for landowners. The CCAA itself constitutes a conservation plan developed with and administered by the Comptroller's Office. The Texas Plan also includes input from TWA and a variety of stakeholders, including federal, state, and private partners representing interests in natural resources, oil and gas, ranching, and agricultural industries.
The plan provides a suite of conservation measures over 30 years that will avoid and minimize adverse effects to dunes sagebrush lizard habitat, while also providing mitigation to restore habitat that was previously developed. An estimated 70 percent of the lizard's habitat in Texas is now enrolled under the Texas Plan.