Mojave lizard may get protection; off-road vehicles are cited as threat

From the Associated Press

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to study whether a lizard population in a stretch of Mojave Desert in eastern Nevada and western California should be listed as threatened or endangered. A notice published Thursday in the Federal Register begins a 12-month review of whether the Amargosa River population of the Mojave fringe-toed lizard merits federal protection.

Officials with the Center for Biological Diversity, who filed a petition in April 2006 seeking the review, called the study overdue.

The Tucson, Ariz.-based organization blames the lizard’s dwindling numbers on off-road vehicle traffic in the lizards’ sand-dune habitat in and near Death Valley National Park.

“Although the lizard can evade predators and extreme midday heat by using its fringed toes to swiftly bury itself in the fine sands of the dunes,” the center said in a statement, “it remains close enough to the surface that it is still vulnerable to death or injury from off-road vehicles’ sand-digging tires.”