State protection of endangered species sought for rare central California lizard

McKITTRICK, California.– The Center for Biological Diversity today formally called on the California Fish and Game Commission to protect the legless Temblor lizard under the state’s Endangered Species Act.

The Temblor legless lizard is a rare sand-swimming reptile found in a small habitat area east of the Temblor Mountains at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. The species – which lives in northwest Kern County and southern Fresno County – is threatened by oil and gas drilling throughout its range.

The legless Temblor lizard is currently known to live at only four sites, three of which are within the boundaries of the oilfields and surrounded by extensive oil and gas development. A total of 31 oil fields straddle the lizard’s restricted range, and more than 98% of its habitat is open to oil and gas drilling.

“These unique lizards receive a fatal blow from the rampant drilling and dumping of the fossil fuel industry in what little habitat they have left,” said Shaye Wolf, director of climate science at the Center. “They urgently need the protections of the state’s Endangered Species Act to prevent their extinction. Governor Newsom also must curb new drilling to protect California’s wildlife and communities from the growing dangers of fossil fuel pollution.

Oil and gas extraction threatens the Temblor legless lizard by destroying and fragmenting its habitat, compacting soil, altering soil moisture levels, removing vegetation cover, and spilling oil and products. chemical. Oil and produced water spills are endemic to the lizard’s restricted range, including at least 20 surface spills since 2019, two of which are currently active.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently concluded that the development of oil and gas could propel the legless Temblor lizard to critically endangered status or extinct in the near future. In 2019, experts on the species 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, the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the species could be protected and initiated a review of its status.

In March, the Center joined with other environmental and community groups in suing the Bureau of Land Management and Kern County for failing to assess the damage and threats to Temblor’s legless lizards due to the expansion of oil and gas in its restricted range. On Wednesday, the Center filed two formal notices of intent to sue the Service for denying or delaying Endangered Species Act protections for the Temblor legless lizard and nine other species.

The Temblor legless lizard is also threatened by urban development, industrial solar development, invasive grasses and non-native wild pigs, as well as rising temperatures and changing soil moisture caused by climate change.

Comments are closed.