Senators submit comment in opposition to designation of Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as endangered species

AUSTIN Texas State Senator Kevin Sparks announced Thursday he submitted a federal comment, along with his colleagues State Senators Pete Flores and Charles Perry, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notifying his opposition to the designation of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as endangered. The purpose of the letter was to highlight the inconsistencies between the agency’s stated reasons for designation and to ask that the agency considers the economic effect such a designation will have on the oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin region, citing the need for more evidence to be gathered before such a dire step is taken.

“It is crucial that the Endangered Species Act remain true to its original purpose of safeguarding species without being used for political purposes, and that the agency considers existing voluntary conservation agreements that landowners have forged over the years with the federal government, as well as established U.S. Supreme Court precedent,” the Senators wrote.

Senator Sparks said: “There is no reliable evidence that oil and gas drilling influences the change in climate conditions in the Permian Basin. The proposed rule cites ‘climate change and climate conditions’ as rationales for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s plans for implementation, yet sources fail to rank the Permian Basin anywhere near the top of the world’s—or even the nation’s—air quality polluters. In fact, the Federal Government’s own data shows that particulate matter trends show a 30% decrease of air pollution in the region in which the Permian Basin sits.”

The agency also cited frac-sand mining activities as a rationale for the potential designation. Responding to this, the Senators pointed to a study that found that the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard population may actually be increasing, showing captures of the lizard in 2022 being 1.7 times greater than in 2021 and 3 to 4 times greater than in 2019 and 2020.

“I want to thank my colleagues, Senator Perry and Senator Flores, for their support on this matter. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Water, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs, Chairman Perry has extensive knowledge on the negative impacts these politically-charged designations can have on our economy. As a former Texas Game Warden Colonel who was in charge of a $60 million budget, 27 field offices, 127 civilian employees and 532 Commissioned Texas Game Wardens, Senator Flores has extensive knowledge and experience with rural and agricultural issues such as these. We urge the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to approach the proposed rule with a commitment to species conservation and a thorough understanding of its potential economic implications, as the Endangered Species Act requires. For the well-being of our constituents, our state, and our nation, a delicate balance between environmental protection and economic stability must be maintained.”