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November 7, 2013  

Federal Judge Grants Texas Comptroller Motion to Intervene in Lawsuit Regarding Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

(AUSTIN) — Texas Comptroller Susan Combs was granted a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding the decision not to list the dunes sagebrush lizard (DSL) as a threatened or endangered species.

The court has agreed to hear input from those who would be directly affected by this litigation, according to the Oct. 24 ruling by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras.

“The judge’s decision ensures that stakeholders who worked on an important lizard conservation plan have a say in the proceedings,” Combs said. “The plan is part of our continuing efforts to help Texas strike an appropriate balance between environmental protection and economic growth.”

The judge ordered the parties to submit a Joint Status Report with a proposed briefing schedule to the Court no later than Nov. 22, 2013.

The lawsuit, filed by Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity, asked the court to require FWS to reconsider its June 2012 decision not to list the lizard. The plaintiffs argued the DSL was not being protected because the Combs-led Texas Conservation Plan (TCP) for the DSL was voluntary in nature, and the partners to the plan were providing too little information to FWS. According to Combs, this is simply not the case.

The Comptroller’s office maintains ongoing dialogue with FWS on the TCP’s progress by sharing aggregated information with FWS both through required monthly and annual reports as well as other communications. Additional information is provided to the public on a Comptroller-run website, www.KeepingTexasFirst.org.

A reversal of the listing could have damaging effects on private property owners, oil and gas producers and agriculture producers, as well as the broader state economy.

Combs is presiding officer of the legislatively created Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species, which assists local communities and governments with maintaining continued economic growth while they respond to ESA actions. She facilitated development of the TCP for the DSL by working with a broad group of stakeholders, including private property owners, oil and gas companies, agricultural interests, and state and federal agencies to provide protection for the DSL while allowing continued economic activity in the region.

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