1. ENDANGERED SPECIES
Texas shields free-market habitat program from federal scrutiny
When the Obama administration announced last summer that it was withdrawing its proposal to list the dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered species, it assured the public that landowners, ranchers and energy developers in west Texas and southeast New Mexico had agreed to voluntarily preserve the reptile's shinnery oak dune habitat. But a new report shows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service never reviewed the specific steps landowners in Texas had agreed to take to protect the lizard from oil wells, truck traffic and new transmission lines, casting doubt on whether future habitat loss could be stopped.