MCKITTRICK, Calif. (KGET) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the Temblor legless lizard of Kern County may qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The determination was in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to list the lizard as an endangered species, as its habitat is highly developed for oil and gas drilling. The lizard is a rare, sand-swimming reptile that occupies a small habitat near the Temblor Range west of McKittrick.
“This is an important step toward federal protections for these rare lizards, which face major threats from oil drilling,” said Tamara Strobel, a staff scientist at the center. “There are only four known locations where this species exists, and most of its habitat is surrounded by oil and gas wells. It’s time to protect legless lizards from the rampant drilling in Kern County that’s destroying habitat and accelerating climate change.”
In its report set to be published tomorrow, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it plans to begin a status review of Temblor legless lizards soon.
“Based on our review, we find that the petitions present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted,” the department said.
The Center filed its petition for Endangered Species Act protection in October. In March, the Center joined other environmental and community groups to sue Kern County for failing to evaluate the impacts to Temblor legless lizards from oil and gas expansion in the county.
“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 center said. “The legless lizards are highly sensitive to the noise and light generated by drilling operations. Climate change, wildfires, invasive species, and habitat loss from urban development and the construction of large-scale solar projects are also threats to the lizard’s survival.”