WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the public comment period on its proposal to list the dunes sagebrush lizard as endangered.
The USFWS said it is reopening comment in light of a new conservation project for the lizard prepared by the Texas Comptroller in coordination with industry, landowners and agricultural interests.
This is the fourth comment period for the dunes sagebrush lizard listing.
With its 2010 listing proposal, the USFWS opened a 60-day comment period. Then, in April 2011, the agency held two public meetings on the proposal and reopened the comment period for another 30 days.
In Dec. 2011, as a final rule was being prepared, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar asking for a further round of comments, because “the proposed listing of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard is not supported by adequate population viability evidence.”
In response to the letter, the USFWS postponed its final rule for six-months and opened a third public comment period, which expired Jan. 19th.
The new public comment period ends March 12. The USFWS seeks comments on the potential impact of the Texas conservation agreement on the viability of the lizard.
The USFWS is bound under the Endangered Species Act to publish a final rule or withdraw the proposed rule at the end of the six-month extension.
The small, light brown lizard was been under consideration for federal protection since 1982. The USFWS decided in December 2004 that listing the species was warranted but precluded by higher priority listing actions.
In its December 2010 listing proposal, the USFWS said the lizard is in danger of extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation from oil and gas exploration and extraction activities.