“The federal government will not place the dunes sagebrush lizard, a sand-dwelling reptile of the West Texas oil patch, on the lists of species requiring special protection, officials said Wednesday,” the Houston Chronicle reported last week. “The decision comes two years after the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the lizard as endangered because increased oil and gas activity in the Permian Basin left it without enough habitat.”
The six-inch lizards were a serious threat to oil and gas production in those counties, however.
“The lizard is a habitat-specific species and that habitat is being affected by oil, gas and ranching operations, said Lesli Gray, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported last month. “Production could be halted in the lizard's habitat if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decides to list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as an endangered species… With 80 to 90 percent of county tax revenue coming from oil and gas, that could spell disaster …”
But in this relatively rare instance, the Fish and Wildlife Service made the right call — mostly because Texas was ready with a plan of its own.
“This is a major victory for Texas jobs and our energy economy,” Combs said. “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,” an understandably triumphant Ms. Combs said in a press release. “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.”
“After visiting the Permian Basin the Administration no doubt saw firsthand the real, dire consequences that listing this species would have had for Texans and our nation’s energy production,” Cornyn said in a release last week. “Today’s decision shows us the value in local input and due diligence when it comes to federal rulings on local issues.”
It also shows the value of cooperation; the Conservation Plan was a joint effort of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas A&M University, the Texas Oil and Gas Association, the Texas Farm Bureau, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Wildlife Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other groups.
All parties showed commendable common sense in this case — that’s refreshing, when lately so many federal rules seem like monsters threatening the multitudes.