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There has been no end to the dialog in the trade and popular press about the impact on oil and gas operations in West Texas likely to result from adding the sand dune lizard to the endangered species list. (See the regional report on the Permian basin, page 64.) Hands have been wrung and accusations flung. To be sure, should the small reptile be listed as endangered, some oil and gas activity in West Texas will cease. So it is serious.
Before adding my commentary to the din, I decided to look at the other side of the issue. Was the lizard truly endangered, I wondered, and who might accurately answer that question? Scheduled to visit my family in West Texas anyway, I decided to visit the lizard’s habitat personally and see for myself. I headed for the shinnery oak forest in far West Texas. Some say this is the largest oak forest in the world, or at least in the US. You would not know that. The shinnery oaks, stretching for miles in all directions (and extending into Oklahoma and New Mexico) are seldom more than two feet tall and, from a distance, look more like stunted shrubs than mature oak trees. This is the sand dune lizard’s habitat.
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