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Rep. Pearce Leads Anti-Conservation Rally with Oil and Gas Industry

Congressman pursues measure to eliminate endangered species protections to boost corporate profits

WASHINGTON - Rep. Steve Pearce is leading a rally today in Roswell, New Mexico opposing federal protection of endangered wildlife. Pearce, the former owner of an oil field service company, is pursuing legislation in Congress to eliminate protections for two species, the sand dune lizard and the lesser prairie chicken. On hand for the rally will be representatives for Big Oil, who stand to be the prime beneficiaries of Pearce’s legislation.

The following is a statement from Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife:

“Rep. Steve Pearce is playing special interest politics at its worst, selling out America’s natural heritage to his financial supporters in the dirty energy industry. He’s protecting potential campaign contributions when he should be protecting New Mexico’s endangered wildlife.

“Big Oil has reported billions of dollars in profits just in the last three months. The protections of two desperate species are clearly not impairing the industry’s financial success. And what’s more, they have stockpiled 29 million acres of oil and gas leases on public lands that are sitting idle.  Yet they want even more and will drive wildlife to extinction to achieve their goals.

“Members of Congress should not substitute campaign politics or corporate interests for sound science. We must allow our environmental laws to work as intended, following the best available science. Instead, Pearce wants to block conservation long opposed by big polluters.  If we don’t draw a line now, then anti-conservation extremists in Congress will simply move to block any conservation program whenever it’s in their personal interest to do so.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has taken extra steps already to reach out to developers so they can continue drilling on public lands, while minimizing impacts to imperiled species. But that’s not good enough for Pearce, who wants to let Big Oil run roughshod over any species that gets in their way.”


Today’s rally precedes a public hearing hosted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to take comment on the proposed listing of the sand dunes lizard, a critically endangered species that exists only in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. The species was first listed as endangered under New Mexico state law in 1995. It has also been a candidate for federal protection since 2001, and a proposed listing was issued by the USFWS in December.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has worked extensively with oil and gas operators in the region for nearly a decade to develop conservation agreements that will preserve important habitat while allowing drilling and exploration to move forward. These agreements have assurances that should the species be listed, local operators will not be required to take any conservation measures beyond those identified in the agreement. According to the USFWS, at least six landowners and four oil companies, totaling 200,000 acres, have already enrolled in these conservation agreements, yet the sand dune lizard continues to decline. The lizard is on the brink of extinction and only the full protection of the Endangered Species Act has a chance of saving it.

Of the total 41 million acres of federal public lands already leased for oil and gas development, the industry has developed only 12 million.



Learn more about what Defenders is doing to protect endangered species

Learn more about the sand dune lizard

Read the proposed listing petition

Read the letter Rep. Pearce submitted to the House Interior Appropriations Committee


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Defenders of Wildlife is a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.

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