Environmental Group Sues to Protect Rare Kern County Lizard
March 23, 2022 AT 11:29 AM
While many Kern County officials have officials have been calling for expanding oil and gas drilling, one conservation non-profit is looking to protect a rare species of lizard that resides in southwestern Kern County.
The full release can be seen below:
Lawsuit Aims to Protect California’s Temblor Legless Lizard
Kern County Oil, Gas Drilling Threatens Habitat of Rare Lizard
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether the temblor legless lizard in California warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The legless lizard is a rare, sand-swimming reptile that occupies a very small area of habitat near the Temblor Range on the southern end of California’s San Joaquin Valley. The survival of the species is jeopardized by oil and gas drilling in its limited range.
“Rampant oil and gas development is putting these rare animals at risk of extinction,” said Lauren Parker, an attorney at the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “It’s past time for the Fish and Wildlife Service to stop dragging its feet, complete its review and protect the legless lizard before it’s too late.”
In response to a 2020 Center petition, the Service announced last June that the Temblor legless lizard may qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The next step is for the agency to issue a 12-month finding and proposed rule. That finding is more than a year overdue.
The Temblor legless lizard’s entire range on the east side of the Temblor Mountain Range is less than 200 kilometers long. The majority of the lizard’s habitat is privately owned and highly developed for oil and gas drilling.
The oil and gas industry damages lizard habitat by compacting the soil, changing moisture levels, removing plant cover and the leaf-litter layer, and releasing oil spills and chemicals. The legless lizards are highly sensitive to the noise and light generated by drilling operations. Climate change, invasive species and habitat loss from urban development also threaten the lizard’s survival.
Today’s legal complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The Center is seeking a date by which the Service must complete its listing review.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has long struggled to provide timely protection to species. The entire process of listing species and designating critical habitat is supposed to take two to three years. But on average it has taken the Service 12 years, and in many cases decades, to protect species. At least 47 species have gone extinct waiting for protection.