Tiny lizard at center of Southwest debate

April 19, 2011 at 12:36 PM
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EL PASO, Texas, April 19 (UPI) -- A federal proposal to list as endangered a lizard found in New Mexico and Texas has drawn opposition, with a New Mexico lawmaker saying it could cost jobs.

The habitat of the dunes sagebrush lizard is shrinking and the U.S. government has listed it as a candidate for endangered status since 2001, the El Paso (Texas) Times reported Tuesday.

Under the Endangered Species Act oil drilling, grazing and use of off-road vehicles could be restricted by the government to protect the lizard's habitat.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said jobs would be put in peril if the federal government classifies the lizard as endangered.

"Most of the oil and gas jobs in southeast New Mexico are at risk," he said. "In the '70s, they listed the spotted owl as endangered and it killed the entire timber industry."

Wildlife advocates disagreed.

It was "delusional to say that protecting this lizard would harm the economy," Nicole Rosmarino, wildlife director of WildEarth Guardians, said.

"He's grandstanding for political reasons. He has his eye on the U.S. Senate seat that (Democrat) Jeff Bingaman is leaving."

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