Flat-tailed horned lizard won't be listed as an endangered species
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday announced that a squat lizard with dragon-like head spines does not need protection under the Endangered Species Act because its remaining desert habitat in Southern California and Arizona is large enough to maintain self-sustaining populations.
In its fourth withdrawal of a proposal to list the flat-tailed horned lizard since 1993, the federal wildlife agency determined that threats to the lizard including urban and agricultural development, off-road vehicles, military exercises, sand and gravel mining, alternative energy projects and construction of roads and utility corridors "are not as significant as earlier believed."
In a statement, wildlife service spokeswoman Jane Hendron said that, although urban development and energy projects are expected to continue in portion's of the reptile's range, more than 457,000 acres of habitat currently managed under interagency cooperative agreements "provide for the conservation of the flat-tailed horned lizard."
The lizard -- 3 1/2 inches long and a voracious consumer of harvester ants -- once inhabited wide swaths of the Colorado and Sonoran deserts.
Each of the agency's previous withdrawals was successfully challenged in court by conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club and the Horned Lizard Conservation Society.
In an interview Monday, Center for Biological Diversity legal director John Buse, said, "We are skeptical of the service's rational. We are trying to determine whether to push this matter further."
-- Louis Sahagun
Photo: A flat-tailed horned lizard. Credit: Jim Rorabaugh / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service