Sand Dune Lizard

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Grumpy Wookiee
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Sand Dune Lizard

Post by Grumpy Wookiee »

They must be running out of original names... they couldn't think of something better than the "sand dune lizard"?

Center for Biological Diversity wrote: The Center for Biological Diversity and Chihuahuan Desert Conservation Alliance petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on May 28, 2002 to list the sand dune lizard as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

The sand dune lizard has the second smallest range of any lizard endemic to North America, only occurring in a narrow crescent shaped area of southeastern New Mexico and western Texas. Within this range, the sand dune lizard only occurs on sand dune "blowouts" topped by the unusual shinnery oak. Such habitats occur in a highly fragmented distribution, increasing the sand dune lizard's likelihood of extinction.

Shinnery oak is often just 4-5' tall, but can be thousands of years old and comprises the largest stand of oak in the country. The heart of the sand dune lizard's range is the Mescalero Sands-a beautiful area of rolling dunes in southeastern New Mexico-found on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and threatened by oil and gas development and herbicide spraying.

Under President Bush's energy policy, already rampant oil and gas development is rapidly increasing on federal lands, resulting in dramatic losses of sand dune lizard habitat. Controlled studies found that relatively small numbers of oil and gas wells resulted in dramatically lower sand dune lizard populations.

Habitat loss related to oil and gas development is compounded by herbicide spraying to remove shinnery oak for the benefit of cattle. Shinnery oak is toxic to cattle for a couple of months every year and competes with grasses and other forage and thus many ranchers would rather see this native plant dead. Like oil and gas development, herbicide spraying has been demonstrated to result in severe sand dune lizard population declines.

Recognizing the severity of the threats to the sand dune lizard, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently made it a candidate for listing, giving it the highest priority for action a species can receive.

The sand dune lizard is a small, brown lizard that buries itself in sand to avoid predators and regulate its body temperature. It occurs in Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Roosevelt Counties in New Mexico and Andrews, Crane, Gaines, Ward and Winkler Counties in Texas.
With all the places that they listed as habitat for this four legged pest, you wouldn't think that it is endangered.

I love it how they report that the lizard is "possibly" endangered due to pesticides, yet, they are trying to get it on the endangered species list and shutting down another riding area...

Heres the link to a good site about the Mescalero Dunes.
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Post by Crowdog »

Just any FYI. The petition is a few years old. Not sure of the current status.

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Post by Grumpy Wookiee »

Well, lets find out....some history first...
New Mexico Game and Fish wrote: The sand dune lizard was listed as threatened by the State of New Mexico in 1975. The Department of Game and Fish began the first of three intensive studies of this lizard in 1990. These studies have been cooperative efforts of the Department, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, and the University of New Mexico. The first study, completed in 1995, showed negative impacts of using herbicides to convert range rom sand/shinnery oak to grasslands. Range conversion benefits forage for cattle but eliminates habitat for sand dune lizards. In some years, converted ranges had up to 94% fewer sand dune lizards when compared to nearby, untreated sites; these effects lasted for as long as 10 years. As
this information became available, the BLM initiated a moratorium on herbicide treatment of shinnery oak in 1992.
And newer developments...
Red Lodge Clearinghouse wrote:
Southeastern New Mexico Working Group
BY APRIL REESE, APRIL 2005

"This is not a collaborative process that has solved anything yet. It's a work in progress."
-- Bob Findling, Conservation Project Director for the Nature Conservancy

Location: Southeastern New Mexico

Objective: To create a conservation strategy for the lesser prairie chicken and the sand dune lizard that will ameliorate the need for federal protection while also allowing economic uses of the land, such as oil and gas development and cattle ranching, to continue.

Participants: Ranchers, oil and gas representatives, Fish & Wildlife Service employees, Forest Service employees, Natural Resources Conservation Service employees, New Mexico Game and Fish employees, New Mexico Land Office employees, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) representatives, environmentalists

History: The landscape of southeastern New Mexico is dominated by the shinnery oak-grassland ecosystem, where squat, well-spaced shrubs mix with bunch grasses and small sand dunes. Amid the oak and grasses, more than 25,000 wells pump oil and gas to the surface. More than 80 years of oil and gas development in the region have helped turn New Mexico into one of the top energy-producing states in the West. Cattle ranching is also a dominant land use in southeastern New Mexico, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a disposal facility for low-level nuclear waste, is also located here.

While oil and gas development is an important economic driver in the state, it has helped push two wildlife species, the lesser prairie chicken and the sand dune lizard, toward extinction. Studies have found that the bird will not utilize habitat in the immediate vicinity of oil and gas wells. The two species, which are also pinched by drought, are candidates for inclusion on the Endangered Species List. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has found that a listing is warranted for both species, but precluded because of funding constraints and other, even more imperiled species that are at the front of the line.

The Southeastern New Mexico Working Group came together in February 2003 at the urging of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and other agencies. Concerned about the decline of the lesser prairie chicken and the sand dune lizard, agency officials put together a group of stakeholders from a wide range of affected or interested constituencies, including the oil and gas industry, ranchers, state land managers, and environmental groups. The group is composed of about 40 people, with four to five representatives from each interest group.

The collaborative effort, which is facilitated by a mediator, is intended to help reduce the threats to the lesser prairie chicken and the sand dune lizard while allowing traditional land uses such as oil and gas development to continue. The group hopes that recovery will be successful enough to avoid the need to list the species under the Endangered Species Act.

The group is taking a two-step approach to meeting its goals. A final draft of the conservation strategy document has been completed, and will be reviewed and finalized at the last meeting of the working group in early May 2005. Following finalization of the document, there will be a "ground-truthing" phase, where members will spend some time in the field to determine whether potential management scenarios will work on the ground.

Recommendations derived from the conservation strategy document will be used by the BLM in drafting a revised resource management plan for the area. Currently, the agency's interim regulations restrict oil and gas drilling in certain areas to protect the species, but the group has found that in some cases, restrictions have been imposed for areas that are not good habitat for the species. In other cases, it has determined that some areas should probably remain off-limits to development.

For about a year, the group met once a month, but now meets sporadically, members say. Subcommittees were formed that tackle specific tasks and then report to the group. Today, much of the work is done through e-mail.

Accomplishments: Although group members admit that they were skeptical of each other and the process at the beginning, they say that, over time, they have built a strong trust that has enabled them to weather occasional challenges. Members say the group is committed to finding a way to recover the lesser prairie chicken and the sand dune lizard while preserving the area's economy and way of life.

The working group has begun to come up with several ideas for how to accomplish that goal. One option under consideration is to reclaim old drilling sites and turn them into adequate habitat for the two species to offset impacts from new energy development. Placing some areas off-limits to development or restricting use to times when the lesser prairie chicken is not breeding has also been discussed.

The group has also mulled creating a captive breeding facility for the lesser prairie chicken, perhaps on WIPP's vast grounds, which encompass about 10,000 acres. Ranchers could also aid recovery by nurturing prairie chicken populations on private lands, group members say. Keeping grass at least two feet tall during breeding season, when chicks are vulnerable to predation, could help protect the species, although the current drought, which experts say could persist for a decade or more, could make implementing such a measure difficult.

Challenges/constraints: While new scientific studies have been completed during the group's tenure, many scientific questions remain unanswered. For instance, the role of drought in the decline of the species is poorly understood. Some group members - particularly those in the oil and gas industry - say they would like to see more science completed before the group makes its recommendations. But they acknowledge that those studies could take years, and that a plan needs to be put in place as soon as possible. Environmental interests say the populations of both the lesser prairie chicken and the sand dune lizard are in such bad shape that action needs to be taken now, even if it's imperfect.

The group intends to take an "adaptive management" approach in creating its recovery plan and recommendations, which allows changes to be made as more information is gathered about the species.

A lack of consistency in participation has been difficult at times, members say. There have been times when stakeholders from one constituency have agreed to something, only to have their decision challenged by absentee participants when they show up at the next meeting.

And some stakeholders are concerned that the absence of private-land and state-land ranchers, who opted not to take participate after the group’s first meeting, will weaken the potential for broad buy-in to the group’s plan. Furthermore, at least one environmental stakeholder said he believes that because the group’s work is focused on sustaining the existing lesser prairie chicken population and ignores reintroduction in other parts of its range, the group’s efforts may not be enough to head off an ESA listing.

Mediator Toby Herzlich says that while the group has accomplished a great deal and is down to the last 15 percent of its work, the final hurdles are proving to be the highest ones. As the group's work reaches its conclusion, the process has proved the old adage, "The devil is in the details."

We'll continue to follow the Southeastern New Mexico Working Group's progress as they tackle those details, so check back for future updates.
See, this is a great example of how an organization like the ASA, or as Crash has said, an Umbrella organization of some sort, could become part of a group that helps to keep duners intrests in mind during the decision making process.

Under the "Participants" section, there is no one representing the intrests of off roaders. The only thing I see keeping the CBD at bay are the oil tycoons and cattle ranchers of the New Mexico area. Niether one of these groups gives a rats A about duning....
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Post by Woodglue »

GW, thanks for the additional research. Would you be able to post up some web-links for your above quotes?
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Post by Grumpy Wookiee »

Sure... here you go...

Here is the CBD stuff...

Here is the stuff from the State of NM...(PDF file)

And here is the stuff from the working group

Let me know if you need more.... oh, and here is the google search on the Sand Dunes Lizard
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Post by Woodglue »

Looks good GW, that way we're all 'legit'. :wink:
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