(AUSTIN) — A voluntary species conservation plan that will help protect the economic vitality of Texas oil and gas and other industries was approved today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
The Texas Conservation Plan (TCP) for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard was spearheaded by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs with the help of stakeholders representing landowners, the oil and gas industry, agriculture and state and federal agencies.
The TCP is a voluntary plan which serves as a safety net for landowners and businesses in West Texas who choose to enroll. The plan is expected to allow participants to continue operating uninterrupted if the lizard is later listed as an endangered species.
“This is great news for the Texas economy and all the people who put in hard work to develop this vital plan,” Combs said. “I strongly oppose listing the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as an endangered species. What the TCP offers is a way to conserve lizard habitat while allowing vital sectors of the economy such as the oil and gas industry and agriculture to thrive in Texas.”
The FWS is still reviewing whether to list the lizard as an endangered species. The Comptroller opposes the listing of the DSL because existing scientific data is inadequate to support the listing and she continues to ask the FWS not to list the species. This past year, the oil and gas industry hired Texas A&M researchers to collect data on the species. Their work found additional locations for the species, indicating more studies need to be done on the lizard.
“Comptroller Combs has proven to be a proactive leader helping solve difficult issues that face Texas. She understands the delicate balance necessary when it comes to wildlife and maintaining economic growth in Texas,” said Debbie Hastings, Vice President of Environmental Affairs for the Texas Oil and Gas Association.
The range of the DSL is in parts of the Permian Basin, a region, which according the University of Texas Permian Basin Center for Energy and Economic Diversification, produces over 1 million barrels of oil a day – which is 68 percent of Texas’ total production and 20 percent of the production of the lower 48 states. These assets are vital to the national economy and defense.
The Comptroller’s office and stakeholders worked with the FWS regional office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Stakeholders included the Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Oil and Gas Association, Texas Royalty Council, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Association of Business, Texas A&M University, Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Railroad Commission of Texas, University of Texas, University Lands, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species.