The plight of two species is putting thousands of acres and the future of the oil and gas industries at risk. If put on the endangered species list, the sand dune lizard and the lesser prairie chicken could block off land from oil and gas companies across multiple states.
The lesser prairie chicken was added to the threatened species list after a court ruling in March 2014. The chicken has known habitats in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, and land management decisions could impact over 100 million acres across the five states.
The sand dune lizard is posing particular problems for the oil industry in West Texas. The lizard’s 800,000 acre habitat spans Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas and just happens to sit right in the middle of Texas oil country.
Given the Obama administration’s recent demonstrations of its willingness to put potentially beneficial land under federal protection, many in the oil and gas industries are concerned that even the potential presence of these species could shut down oil and gas rich areas from exploration or further development.
Shutting down oil-rich areas to protect these species isn’t just bad for the oil and gas industry ― it’s bad for its employees as well. Texas state officials and energy executives have warned that classifying the sand dune lizard as an endangered species could cost thousands of Texans their jobs.