75 Fed. Reg. 77801(Tuesday, December 14, 2010) / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR / Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS–R2–ES–2010–0041; MO 92210–0–0008 / RIN 1018–AV97
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Status for Dunes Sagebrush Lizard
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Proposed rule.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, propose to list the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus), a lizard known from southeastern New Mexico and adjacent west Texas, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. If we finalize the rule as proposed, it would extend the Act’s protections to this species. We have determined that critical habitat for the dunes sagebrush lizard is prudent but not determinable at this time. DATES: We will consider comments received or postmarked on or before February 14, 2011.
The dunes sagebrush lizard is considered to be a habitat specialist because it has adapted to thrive only in a narrow range of environmental conditions that exist within shinnery oak dunes. Each shinnery oak tree occurs primarily under ground, with only one-tenth of the plant standing 0.6 to 0.8 meters (m) (2 to 3 feet (ft)) above ground level. In 1982, it was estimated that there was one million acres of shinnery oak dunes in New Mexico. Currently, the amount of shinnery oak dune habitat is estimated to be 600,000 acres, a 40 percent loss since 1982. Continued loss of shinnery oak dunes within the geographic range of the dunes sagebrush lizard since then has likely further decreased the amount of habitat available.
KEITHINKING: The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned FWS to list the species eight years ago. The listing of this species may have significant implications for the development of energy development in Texas and New Mexico, creating traditional conflicts with oil drilling, but also creating new problems for green energy solutions...
EXCERPT: Wind and Solar Energy Development. Eastern New Mexico and western Texas are highly suitable areas for wind and solar energy development. The NMSLO has leased 1,520 ha (3,757 ac) of trust land in Chaves and Roosevelt Counties to Xcel Energy for a 120-megawatt (MW) wind farm. Additionally, two new wind projects are under development on State trust lands in Chaves County, and one in Eddy County. The Service has also been contacted by a consultant for a wind energy farm to be located in Lea County, near Tatum, New Mexico. The proposed project area is near the range of the dunes sagebrush lizard. The infrastructure for wind and solar energy would cause similar habitat fragmentation as that produced by oil and gas development. Potential direct effects to the dunes sagebrush lizard from wind energy development include physical disturbance during construction and maintenance of a project, habitat loss, and habitat fragmentation associated with the infrastructure of the project.