According to the Los Angeles Times, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decided not to list the Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard on the Endangered Species list after reviewing the proposal since last year. The lizard has been relegated to a fraction of its former range--which used to span the Sonoran Desert--but the USFWS assessed that inter-agency and local conservation efforts have set aside sufficient land to keep the species viable.
Despite the ruling, the lizard still faces a slew of threats from illegal off-highway vehicle use, solar energy facilities, new transmission lines, and urban growth, which continue to constrain its remaining habitat. One massive solar facility--the Imperial Valley Solar power project--would deprive the flat-tailed horned lizard of nearly 9.6 square miles of habitat. USFWS acknowledges that some threats from energy development persists, but judges that the energy applications do not threaten the designated management areas.
Regarding urban encroachment on the lizard's habitat, the USFWS assessed that the Coachella Valley Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan will protect the flat-tailed horned lizard from habitat loss in part of its range. The habitat conservation plan, however, has preserved 25% of its goal of 240,000 acres, suggesting it is still a work in progress.
The full USFWS ruling will be made available at www.regulations.gov tomorrow (15 March 2011), according to the USFWS press release.