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New endangered listing for rare lizard could slow oil and gas drilling in New Mexico and West Texas

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New endangered listing for rare lizard could slow oil and gas drilling in New Mexico and West Texas
News

News

New endangered listing for rare lizard could slow oil and gas drilling in New Mexico and West Texas

2024-05-18 05:49 Last Updated At:05-19 10:23

Federal wildlife officials declared a rare lizard in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas an endangered species Friday, citing future energy development, sand mining and climate change as the biggest threats to its survival in one of the world’s most lucrative oil and natural gas basins.

“We have determined that the dunes sagebrush lizard is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. It concluded that the lizard already is “functionally extinct” across 47% of its range.

Much of the the 2.5-inch-long (6.5-centimeter), spiny, light brown lizard's remaining habitat has been fragmented, preventing the species from finding mates beyond those already living close by, according to biologists.

“Even if there were no further expansion of the oil and gas or sand mining industry, the existing footprint of these operations will continue to negatively affect the dunes sagebrush lizard into the future,” the service said in its final determination, published in the Federal Register.

The decision caps two decades of legal and regulatory skirmishes between the U.S. government, conservationists and the oil and gas industry. Environmentalists cheered the move, while industry leaders condemned it as a threat to future production of the fossil fuels.

The decision provides a “lifeline for survival” for a unique species whose “only fault has been occupying a habitat that the fossil fuel industry has been wanting to claw away from it,” said Bryan Bird, the Southwest director for Defenders of Wildlife.

“The dunes sagebrush lizard spent far too long languishing in a Pandora’s box of political and administrative back and forth even as its population was in free-fall towards extinction,” Bird said in a statement.

The Permian Basin Petroleum Association and the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association expressed disappointment, saying the determination flies in the face of available science and ignores longstanding state-sponsored conservation efforts across hundreds of thousands of acres and commitment of millions of dollars in both states.

“This listing will bring no additional benefit for the species and its habitat, yet could be detrimental to those living and working in the region,” PBPA President Ben Shepperd and NMOGA President and CEO Missi Currier said in a joint statement, adding that they view it as a federal overreach that can harm communities.

Scientists say the lizards are found only in the Permian Basin, the second-smallest range of any North American lizard. The reptiles live in sand dunes and among shinnery oak, where they feed on insects and spiders and burrow into the sand for protection from extreme temperatures.

Environmentalists first petitioned for the species' protection in 2002, and in 2010 federal officials found that it was warranted. That prompted an outcry from some members of Congress and communities that rely on oil and gas development for jobs and tax revenue.

Several Republican lawmakers sent a letter to officials in the Obama administration asking to delay a final decision, and in 2012, federal officials decided against listing the dunes sagebrush lizard.

Then-U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at the time that the decision was based on the “best available science” and because of voluntary conservation agreements in place in New Mexico and Texas.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said in Friday's decision that such agreements “have provided, and continue to provide, many conservation benefits” for the lizard, but “based on the information we reviewed in our assessment, we conclude that the risk of extinction for the dunes sagebrush lizard is high despite these efforts.”

Among other things, the network of roads will continue to restrict movement and facilitate direct mortality of dunes sagebrush lizards from traffic, it added, while industrial development “will continue to have edge effects on surrounding habitat and weaken the structure of the sand dune formations.”

FILE - This May 1, 2015, file photo shows a Dunes Sagebrush lizard in N.M. Federal wildlife officials declared the rare lizard in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas an endangered species, citing future energy development, sand mining and climate change as the biggest threats to its survival in one of the world's most lucrative oil and natural gas basins. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File)

FILE - This May 1, 2015, file photo shows a Dunes Sagebrush lizard in N.M. Federal wildlife officials declared the rare lizard in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas an endangered species, citing future energy development, sand mining and climate change as the biggest threats to its survival in one of the world's most lucrative oil and natural gas basins. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Anthony Santander homered twice and drove in five runs after Adley Rutschman and Colton Cowser had already hit two-run homers, and the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles beat the Texas Rangers 9-1 on Friday night in the first game out of the break.

Rutschman and Cowser both went deep in the first inning, putting the Orioles up 4-0 before All-Star starting pitcher Corbin Burnes had even thrown his first pitch.

“To put up four runs in the first with Corbin Burnes on the mound, you feel good about that,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said.

Burnes (10-4), back on the same mound where he started the All-Star Game three nights earlier, struck out six and allowed one run over six innings. The right-hander limited Texas to two hits, but walked four while throwing 60 of 101 pitches for strikes.

“It felt like a normal start. You know, once I get going in my routine pregame, to be able to kind of switch and lock in a little bit,” said Burnes, who twice since his last O's start July 10 had also been home to Arizona twice to be with his newborn twin daughters. “Obviously wasn’t as crisp tonight. You know, four walks is never something we’re trying to do.”

Nathan Eovaldi (6-4) gave up six runs on three homers in his five innings. The Texas right-hander was 5-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his first 10 starts at home this season.

“I hung some curveballs, the splitters were up a little bit, fastball command ... I just felt like I didn’t really execute a lot of my pitches tonight very well,” Eovaldi said.

Gunnar Henderson led off the game with the first of his four singles before catcher Rutschman's 17th homer. They both also started for the American League in the All-Star Game.

Santander, also an All-Star, hit his 25th homer in the fifth, two batters after another Henderson single. The batter in between was Rutschman, who hit a popup to shallow left, where third baseman Josh Smith made an incredible lunging over-the-shoulder catch.

Santander added a three-run homer in the seventh inning.

Nathaniel Lowe hit a 434-foot homer to straightaway center in the second for reigning World Series champion Texas (46-51), which had won seven of nine before the break.

Burnes completed six innings in his 15th consecutive start, a career high for the four-time All-Star and the longest streak for an Orioles pitcher since Sidney Ponson's 16 in a row 20 years ago.

“He's good, he's real good,” said Bruce Bochy of the Rangers, who also managed the AL squad on Tuesday night. “He's tough. He's got a good mix and velo.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Orioles: Rookie OF Heston Kjerstad was going through a workout Friday, and had tests to pass before can be activated from the seven-day concussion list. He was hit around the ear flap by a 97 mph pitch on July 12. Manager Brandon Hyde said the hope is that Kjerstad can return this weekend.

Rangers: Two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom (right elbow surgery rehab) threw 35 pitches off the mound, mixing in a handful of sliders for the first time. “All went well, felt great, located the ball very well, so good outing for him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. ... Smith stayed in the game after getting hit on the hand by a pitch in the eighth inning. ... 3B Josh Jung (right wrist) took some aggressive swings in the batting cage. Bochy said Jung feels really good, but the manager didn’t know the next step.

UP NEXT

Orioles RHP Grayson Rodriguez, the AL leader with 11 wins, starts the middle game of the series Saturday. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (1-2, 2.96 ERA) makes his sixth start since coming back from offseason back surgery and then dealing with a nerve issue around his right thumb.

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Corbin Burnes throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Corbin Burnes throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Anthony Santander (25) runs the bases past Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager, right, after hitting a three-run home run, also scoring teammates Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman, during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Anthony Santander (25) runs the bases past Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager, right, after hitting a three-run home run, also scoring teammates Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman, during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Colton Cowser (17) runs the bases past Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager (5) after hitting home run that also scored teammate Ryan O'Hearn during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Colton Cowser (17) runs the bases past Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager (5) after hitting home run that also scored teammate Ryan O'Hearn during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Colton Cowser hits a home run that also scored teammate Ryan O'Hearn during the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Colton Cowser hits a home run that also scored teammate Ryan O'Hearn during the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Colton Cowser (17) celebrates his home run that also scored teammate Ryan O'Hearn (32) during the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Colton Cowser (17) celebrates his home run that also scored teammate Ryan O'Hearn (32) during the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Adley Rutschman (35) hits a home run in front of Texas Rangers catcher Jonah Heim during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. Orioles Gunnar Henderson also scored on the play. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Adley Rutschman (35) hits a home run in front of Texas Rangers catcher Jonah Heim during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. Orioles Gunnar Henderson also scored on the play. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (17) looks on while Baltimore Orioles' Anthony Santander (25) runs the bases after hitting a home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. Orioles' Gunnar Henderson also scored on the play. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (17) looks on while Baltimore Orioles' Anthony Santander (25) runs the bases after hitting a home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. Orioles' Gunnar Henderson also scored on the play. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) laughs with Texas Rangers baserunner Marcus Semien, left, after out three to end the third inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) laughs with Texas Rangers baserunner Marcus Semien, left, after out three to end the third inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Anthony Santander hits a three-run home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. Orioles' Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman also scored on the play. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Baltimore Orioles' Anthony Santander hits a three-run home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 19, 2024. Orioles' Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman also scored on the play. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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