No one saw this coming.

We have followed the saga of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard for over a year.

The decision on whether to grant endagered species status to the lizard was not expected until tomorrow.  Granting protected status to the lizard would have threatened oil production and exploration in west Texas and eastern New Mexico, along with booming economies dependent on those industries.

The Fish and Wildlife Service quietly announced this morning that it was denying endangered species status.

Via Las Cruces Sun-News (h/t Danelle):

The dunes sagebrush lizard will not be listed as an endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided today against federal protection for the lizard, which exists in four counties of southeastern New Mexico and four others in West Texas.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has scheduled a news conference for later today, but the federal government’s position is that voluntary conservation agreements to save the reptile are working well.

Through these measures, private landowners and businesses are setting aside land and money to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard’s habitat, which overlaps with oil drilling in the Permian Basin.

The lizard needs wind-blown dunes with a shrub called shinnery oak to survive.

Via News New Mexico (h/t Rachel):

Today, Congressman Steve Pearce released the following statement regarding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement that the dunes sage brush lizard will not be listed as endangered:

“For over a year, New Mexicans have fought against the unnecessary listing of the lizard,” said Pearce. “They have demanded that the lizard not be listed without accurate science or at the expense of jobs for hardworking people. Finally, Washington listened, and the lizard will not be listed. This is a huge victory for the people who have so tirelessly fought to save their jobs and their way of life. I extend my gratitude to the New Mexicans who came to the table, and through good faith efforts, voluntarily protected the lizard’s habitat.”

This was a good day for everyone.  The economies in west Texas and eastern New Mexico are protected and private groups will help with habitat preservation.

Best of all, today we learned that Dunes Sagebrush Lizards fly.  Which means that it will be harder for the roadrunners to catch them.