After a court-ordered analysis of the flat-tailed horned lizard’s status, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined threats to the species “are not as significant as earlier believed” and that the species does not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Among numerous other threats to the species, the construction of roads significantly contributes to loss and degradation of the lizard’s historic habitat. And what about all the new renewable energy projects in the desert, pushing out fragile species like the desert tortoise?
When facing a predator or other potential danger, the flat-tailed horned lizard immediately freezes. On a road, this leads to lizard roadkill. In response, Arizona DOT has fenced 18 miles of the Robert A. Vaughan Expressway in Yuma County with special reptile fencing, funneling the lizards to crossings under the highway.
Now FWS has determined that loss and degradation of the lizard’s habitat largely occurred in the historical past. But it seems that road construction, urban development, and energy projects will continue to progress indefinitely and will certainly continue to impact the lizard. Protection measures such as range studies, maintaining conservation management areas, and including the species in Habitat Conservation Plans have, in part, resulted from the FWS “threatened” listing. Now that the lizard is no longer a listed species, will these species-specific conservation plans and strategies continue to be maintained?
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