1. ENDANGERED SPECIES
Voluntary agreements gain traction at FWS
When the dunes sagebrush lizard crept off the endangered species list this summer, it gave new hope to landowners who would like to avoid endangered species regulations for other rare critters on their property. The Fish and Wildlife Service made the unusual decision last June to withdraw its original proposal to protect the lizard under the Endangered Species Act. Agency scientists determined, instead, that state-led voluntary conservation agreements across much of the lizard's habitat in New Mexico and Texas would do enough to ensure the rare reptile's long-term protection and recovery. It was a victory for oil and gas companies and ranchers who worked to develop conservation plans. Now the Fish and Wildlife Service is seeing increased interest in similar arrangements for other species.