UPDATE: State & Local Lawmakers Speak Out About Lizard Decision

UPDATE: State & Local Lawmakers Speak Out About Lizard Decision

State and local lawmakers are speaking out about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision not to list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as an endangered species.
State and local lawmakers are speaking out about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision not to list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as an endangered species.

U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (TX-19) issued this press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C -- Today, Congressman Randy Neugebauer (TX-19)
joined Members of the Congressional Western Caucus to praise the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision not to list the dunes sage brush lizard under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

"I am extremely pleased that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the historic voluntary conservation agreements in Texas and New Mexico were sufficient to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard," Neugebauer said. 

The Service chose not to list the lizard after Texas and New Mexico led voluntary conservation efforts to protect the species. The Texas conservation plan was developed by a coalition led by the Comptroller of Public Accounts, and included input from state, federal, and private stakeholders from oil and gas, natural resources, and agricultural industries.   

"Listing the species for protection under the Endangered Species Act would have had unprecedented effects on energy producers, farmers, and ranchers," Neugebauer said.  "It could have devastated our local economy by severely limiting energy production and agricultural activities.  This decision shows how voluntary conservation can produce beneficial results for everyone."

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson issued this press release, saying "Federal reptile dysfunction defeated":

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson today claimed victory in an initial battle after U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced federal bureaucrats will not list the dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered species.

"Texans stood up and were heard," Patterson said. "The drive to list this lizard wasn't based on science, but was in response to abusive lawsuits filed against the federal government by a radical environmental group -- and Texans showed that we don't get intimidated so easily."
Oil and gas production in the Permian Basin is safe from overreaching federal entanglements for now, Patterson said,  but more work needs to be done to fix the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit that prompted the proposed listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard also proposed listing more than 250 other species -- 21 of which live in Texas.

"Today it's the dunes sagebrush  lizard, tomorrow it's another species to settle another lawsuit," Patterson said. "The real problem is how the Endangered Species Act is being abused."

Patterson is going to D.C. next week to testify before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee hearing on "Taxpayer-funded Litigation: Benefiting Lawyers and Harming Species, Jobs and Schools."

Patterson will explain how taxpayers are being forced to fund the very lawsuits being filed by radical environmental groups that result in proposals to declare more species endangered. "While Texas landowners may be shocked to learn they paid the legal fees for these groups, they should be horrified to learn these very same radical environmental groups are funded with grants from you and me," Patterson said. "We, as taxpayers, are paying for them to sue our federal government and work against our interests and that's just dumb."

From 2007 to 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave $680,492 in tax money to the Wild Earth Guardians, according to congressional testimony. During that same time, the Wild Earth Guardians sued U.S. Fish and Wildlife 76 times, including the lawsuit that triggered the proposal to list the dunes sagebrush lizard.

Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman issued this press release:

Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman applauded the diverse coalition of stakeholders, including the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, who worked together to prevent the listing of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as a threatened or endangered species.  As Texas' top energy official, Smitherman has worked tirelessly against efforts to list this lizard as endangered, and has warned the Obama Administration against listing it as threatened.

"I am glad that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed what we knew all along: Oil and Gas exploration and production does not pose a threat to this lizard," Smitherman stated.  "It is unfortunate that we had to spend countless hours and huge sums of money combatting the frivolous lawsuit that the radical environmentalists filed to set this listing in motion."

Listing the DSL as endangered or threatened would have jeopardized thousands of jobs and a tremendous amount of energy production in the Permian Basin, which is the state's most prolific oil producing region.  "We have worked hard fighting this battle, and I am thankful that the science and common sense have prevailed.  As a result of our continued efforts, hardworking Texans, especially those in the Permian Basin, did not become victims of any anti-fossil fuel agenda," Smitherman added.

"Now is not the time to rest on our laurels, however.  There are dozens more species the anti-fossil fuel crowd will be using this same strategy with.  My message to those who are trying to stop energy production by using frivolous endangered species lawsuits is this: We will not give in, we will keep on fighting, and we will keep on winning.  The science is on our side, and we will not let an anti-fossil fuel agenda stand in the way of American Energy Independence," Smitherman concluded.

State Sen. Kel Seliger (District 31) issued the following comments:

"I am pleased that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has decided not to list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (DSL) on the endangered species list.  I have no doubt that the decision made by the Service was due to the sound science that proved a listing of the DSL was not imperative or prudent. I want to commend the oil and gas industry and West Texas landowners for taking this issue seriously and coming to the table with ideas and solutions. 

I also believe that the decision was due in no small part to the comprehensive and intense discussion of these issues in the Senate Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing in Odessa. I would like to thank Dr. Benjamin Tuggle of the Service's Southwestern Regional Office and Dr. Lee Fitzgerald of Texas A&M University for their participation in the hearing and their testimony that truly explored all sides of this issue. It is because of that perseverance and partnership between government, academia, industry and private citizens that the DSL will continue to coexist with oil and gas activity.

I am proud to represent the Permian Basin and thank all involved on a job well done."

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