Texas rewrites lizard protection plan with hopes of avoiding federal intervention

The state of Texas is taking steps to improve its protections for the dunes sagebrush lizard, hoping it might prevent the federal government from moving in and taking far more restrictive action.

State officials are rewriting the Texas Conservation Plan which was originally drawn up to avoid federal regulation over the little creature that is found largely in the state’s most active oil and gas region….the Permian Basin.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to approve the new version, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman.

The new version includes fees for some companies to support conservation efforts and ways for firms to avoid lizard habitat.

“It’s fair to say we’re very pleased that it strikes balance of protecting species while also allowing growth and development in the Permian Basin,” said Robert Gulley, who oversees endangered species conservation for the Texas comptroller’s office.

The Texas Conservation Plan, shepherded by then-Comptroller Susan Combs, enlisted oil and gas companies to voluntarily help preserve the lizard’s habitat.

But environmentalists still contend the rewritten plan still favors petroleum interests over the lizard. Two groups asked the Fish and Wildlife Service two months ago to consider the lizard to be endangered, claiming its habitat has been destroyed by the sand-mining industry.