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The push for federal protection of the dunes sagebrush lizard -- a tiny 3-inch reptile -- is causing big headaches for oil drillers and ranchers who say doing so will kill their livelihood. Oil company owners say they support conservation, but fear what will happen to the economy if the brakes are put on local oil production. “This could cripple what is now a very healthy job environment,” said Douglass Robison, president of ExL Petroleum in Midland, Texas. The dunes sagebrush lizard lives off of a shrub called shinnery oak in the Permian Basin, which cuts through New Mexico and West Texas -- and is also one of the richest resources of oil and gas in the United States.
“They have only looked at 1 percent out of potential habitats,” he said. “The science is weak,” he added. He says giving the dunes sagebrush lizard federal protection status wouldn’t be threatening just Texas, it would be damaging to the entire United States because of less domestic drilling, resulting in higher gas prices. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) said if the lizard ends up on the list, it would shut down any industry that interrupts the land, including oil drilling and ranching. “Almost every job [in the counties] is at risk,” Pearce told FoxNews.com. “Workers will have to go someplace else.” The Center for Biological Diversity and another conservation group, WildEarth Guardians, says Pearce’s claim that the oil and gas industry would be devastated is blown out of proportion. Lininger said the lizards are at great risk. “The science is clear that the species require protection now.” In October 2001, the lizard was added as a candidate to be listed as endangered. Under the Bush administration a decision was delayed, but last year the lizard moved up the list.