“We have determined that the lizard is no longer in danger of extinction and is not likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future,” said Dan Ashe, director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a conference call to reporters.
In a press release, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Texas’ plan was a prime example of how states working with the federal government and private landowners could protect habitat.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has spearheaded up the state’s plan, which relies on voluntary conservation efforts from private landowners and industry.
“Working with energy producers and other stakeholders, we were able to enroll nearly 250,000 acres in West Texas as part of the Texas Conservation Plan. This decision proves we don’t have to choose between the environment and our economy, but can be good stewards of both. Energy exploration is the economic lifeblood of West Texas, and I am delighted we were able to come up with a creative solution that protects paychecks, property rights and jobs,” Combs wrote in a press release today.
The Texas Conservation Plan, which was approved in February, encourages private landowners to take steps to preserve nearly 85% of the lizard’s native habitat.
Some environmental groups are concerned that the reliance on voluntary compliance is fraught with peril for the lizard.
The Center for Biological Diversity said its own analysis of Texas’s plan showed it was unlikely to be effective.
The lizard’s habitat in West Texas is also the site of major oil and gas production. The Comptroller’s office reports that it produces more than one billion barrels of oil a day – 68 percent of total oil production in Texas.
During the conference call with reporters, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was asked to respond to comments from environmental groups that the Department’s decision was influenced by big oil companies. “I think it’s unfortunate that we’ll hear that comment from some groups. They may just want to keep the conflict going for conflict’s sake,” Salazar said.