Legless lizard Temblor wins California Endangered Species Act protections

LOS ANGELES – In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Fish and Game Commission today unanimously agreed to protect the Temblor legless lizard under the California’s Endangered Species Act. ‘State. This decision grants legal protection to rare lizards for at least one year.

The Temblor legless lizard is an unusual sand-swimming reptile found only in Kern and Fresno counties in the southwestern San Joaquin Valley. The survival of the species is threatened by the extensive oil and gas drilling in its narrow range.

“It warms my heart that these rare lizards will be able to dig, hunt and breed safely, protected from oil drilling that threatens their existence,” said Shaye Wolf, director of climate science at the Center. “These endangered animals only have five areas where they live and they are mostly surrounded by damaging oil drilling. Now we need the state to act quickly to finalize these protections before the fossil fuel industry wipes out these magnificent lizards forever.

Vote to Grant Lizard Candidate Status Confirms California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s April recommendation. A candidate designation triggers a year-long review to determine whether the species should be officially protected under state law. The species is legally protected during the review period.

The Temblor legless lizard is currently known to live in only five sites in Kern and Fresno counties. Four of them are within the boundaries of the oil fields and are surrounded by major oil and gas developments. A total of 31 oil fields overlap the lizard’s restricted range, and more than 98% of its habitat is open to oil and gas development.

Oil and gas drilling threatens the Temblor legless lizard by destroying and fragmenting its habitat, compacting soil, changing soil moisture levels, removing ground cover, and spilling oil and chemicals. Oil and produced water spills are rampant within the lizard’s restricted range, and there have been at least 20 surface spills in recent years.

The Temblor legless lizard is also threatened by urban and industrial development, invasive weeds and non-native feral pigs, and rising temperatures and drier conditions caused by climate change.

In 2019, species experts recommended listing the Temblor legless lizard under both the California Endangered Species Act and federal law.

The Center filed for federal endangered species law protection for the Temblor legless lizard in October 2020. In June 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the species was eligible for protection. In March, the Center filed a lawsuit over the agency’s delay in determining whether the lizard deserves protection.

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