By Trish Choate

WASHINGTON — The federal government decided not to list the dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered species, much to the delight of the oil and gas industry, landowners and the Big Country congressional delegation.

Some environmental groups, however, were far from pleased by the decision announced Wednesday. The lizard that lives in the Permian Basin, an area active with energy development in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

Environmentalists object to the same thing federal and Texas state officials and energy groups are rejoicing over: an unprecedented voluntary conservation plan with no means of enforcement.

Federal officials said they expect state governments in Texas and New Mexico, landowners and energy producers to carry through on their states’ respective plans to conserve and restore the lizard’s habitat. If not, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service can always move to list the lizard as an endangered species again.

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