By Ben Shepperd, President, Permian Basin Petroleum Association.
Happy New Year from the PBPA! With gratitude to many, PBPA enters 2012 with a hoped-for and much-needed six-month extension of time to make its case in the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard issue.
As I am sure you are already aware, on Thursday, Dec. 1, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted a six-month extension on the decision to list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard on the Endangered Species list. Federal wildlife officials were set to deliver their decision on the DSL later in December, but the agency said it wanted to solicit additional scientific information and public comment before making any final decisions regarding the lizard proposal.
This is reassuring news for PBPA, as well as the producers, landowners, and counties of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas. We will spend the time wisely gathering as much new research and information as we can in an attempt to prove that a listing is not warranted at this time.
Countless hours of diligent work has been poured into this project, and I can’t even scratch the surface of people to thank. However, there are several individuals and groups that do deserve special recognition.
I would like to commend the hard-working employees of the USFWS. Few issues are more important than protection of species and our natural resources. They have to find the proper balance between species protection and allowing human activities to continue. They have a difficult job and I appreciate the decision to extend the decision in order to make the most informed decision possible.
Senator John Cornyn deserves special recognition for all of his hard work and direct communication with USFWS. New Mexico Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall both signed letters requesting an extension. Congressmen Steve Pearce, Mike Conaway, Randy Neugebauer, and Quico Canseco and their staffs worked hard on this issue.
The scientists at Texas Tech University have also spent a great deal of their time studying the lizard, its habitat, and the claims leading to the listing proposal. In particular, Drs. Robert Baker, Todd Anderson, and Chris Salice deserve special recognition. In addition to Texas Tech, Texas A&M University has likewise worked diligently researching the need for the proposed listing. Their work last summer surveying the habitat and counting lizards was a critically important new study.
Countless company employees and other individuals spent thousands of hours analyzing the data and helping direct new research and analysis.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs led the effort to develop the Texas Conservation Plan to insure that Texas has a “safety net” should the lizard get listed.
On the coordination effort, many county officials, including mayors, judges, and soil and water conservation district representatives, have pushed the effort to coordinate with the USFWS, submitted comments, traveled to Washington, D.C., and spent an enormous amount of time working to halt the listing.
A group of Texas and New Mexico county officials have invited USFWS to come Hobbs, N.M., on January 10th to discuss the listing.
PBPA will continue to press for further research that will hopefully further show that the listing is not warranted. The 45-day comment period will end January 19th, and I urge everyone to submit your comments on the listing.