I’ve said it before – I love lizards. Earlier in my career, I spent lots of time in the Southwest catching lizards for research. Now I do it just for fun because, without my even having to explain why, my son understands that seeing a lizard up close, checking out its sideways glance, and comparing its prickly back to its smooth, colorful belly is one of the coolest things on Earth.
But not everyone shares my love for lizards. The oil and gas industry in particular has it in for the Dunes Sagebrush lizard—a highly imperiled lizard species—out of fear that protecting it will impair their ability to drill for oil in the Permian basin area of west Texas and southeastern New Mexico. The lizard is actually found in less than 1% of the Permian basin oil patch, meaning that protecting it under the Endangered Species Act, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to do, would have little if any effect on oil and gas leasing in the area. Nonetheless, the industry and some representatives in Congress have pushed to block protections for the lizard by submitting petitions and introducing legislation that would prevent Fish and Wildlife from finalizing their decision to list the lizard as an endangered species.
This is part of a dangerous trend in Congress right now – a kind of Reverse Ark – trying to block or remove Endangered Species Act protections for certain species. Some species are easier to vilify than others and – don’t ask me why – but lizards seem to fit that bill.
I know they aren’t as cute and fuzzy as some other species, but even if you aren’t a lizard-lover like me, do we really want to have deserts without lizards? Or, if politicians and the oil and gas industry are allowed to block even more species from receiving protections, do we want a world without wildlife?
You can take action by telling the Administration that you support protections for the Dunes Sagebrush lizard by signing a petition on the White House's website. (Click here.)
A note on the photos: The lizards in the photos above were caught using a standard field technique involving a string tied to the end of a stick that in no way harms the lizards.