For years the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been used to block development and economic growth. But on December 1, 2011, people and jobs were given a small victory.
Midday, Thursday, December 1, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a 6-month extension for the final determination for the proposed listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard (also known as the sand dune lizard). This may sound insignificant to those not impacted by previous ESA listing decisions or those not engaged in this fight, but it is surely something to cheer about in an era of bad economic news. (In this case, the proposed ESA listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard has the potential to “decimate” a large percentage of America’s oil and gas production.) Additionally, it represents a rare instance of bipartisan action and Congress doing the right thing.
One year ago, the FWS published its intention to consider the proposed listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered species under the ESA. This set into place a year-long process of public hearings, data gathering, and citizen rallies.
The ESA only allows three options in response to a proposed listing. One of these actions must be taken within one year of the proposed listing date—which would have been December 14, 2011:
(1) Finalize the proposed listing;
(2) Withdraw the proposed listing; or
(3) Extend the final determination by not more than 6 months, if there is substantial disagreement regarding the sufficiency or accuracy of the available data relevant to the determination, for the purposes of soliciting additional data.
The citizens who would be directly impacted if the lizard is listed have written comments and made phone calls, stepped out of their comfort zones to speak up at hearings, and waved signs at rallies—all in hopes of saving their communities’ economies. Though history told them it was unlikely, the desired outcome was option #2, the withdrawal of the proposed listing.
On December 1, they didn’t get an early Christmas present, but they did get a gift: option #3, as there is “substantial disagreement” about the “science” in the actual proposed listing. This gift buys time to draw more attention to the issue—and it puts the lizard and the listings’ job-killing potential smack dab in the middle of the campaign season in a swing state.