Legless lizard in California one step closer to protecting endangered species law

McKITTRICK, California.– In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announcement today that the Temblor legless lizard may qualify for 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 at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. Animals are threatened by oil and gas drilling.

“This is an important step towards federal protection of these rare lizards, which face major threats from oil drilling,” said Tamara Strobel, scientist at the Center. “There are only four known places where this species exists, and most of its habitat is surrounded by oil and gas wells. It’s time to protect the legless lizards from the rampant drilling in Kern County that is destroying their habitat and accelerating climate change.

The Service will begin a review of the legless Temblor Lizards, whose entire range on the eastern side of the Temblor Mountain Range is less than 200 kilometers in length. The majority of the lizard’s habitat is privately owned and highly developed for oil and gas drilling.

The Center filed for Endangered Species Act protection for the Temblor legless lizard in October 2020. In March, the Center joined with other environmental and community groups to sue Kern County for failing to assess the impacts on Temblor legless lizards from the county’s oil and gas expansion.

The oil and gas industry damages lizard habitat by compacting soil, changing moisture levels, removing vegetation cover and leaf litter, and releasing oil and chemical spills. Legless lizards are very sensitive to noise and light generated by drilling operations. Climate change, forest fires, invasive species, and habitat loss due to urban development and the construction of large-scale solar projects are also threats to the lizard’s survival.

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