Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act requires species to be listed as endangered or threatened solely on the basis of their biological status and threats to their existence.
The species that's currently at the top of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' list is the sand dune lizard. One of the main reasons is the impact oil and gas drilling is having on their natural habitat.
While the Permian Basin is worried about the thousands of jobs that could be lost should this lizard be added to the list, representatives with Fish and Wildlife say they're job is to stay focused on their main objective.
"I think for us, our mission is to conserve species," says Michelle Shaughnessy, New Mexico Ecological field office.
The sand dune lizard was put on the endangered species candidate list in 2001, but it wasn't a priority. Shaughnessy says, "It finally got moved up the list. The threats became worse and in 2008, we received the funding to move forward with the proposed listing. This is where we are now."
And the fact that they've known about this since 2008, was a heated topic at the hearing. Ward Co. Judge Greg Holly told the panel, "The reality is we just became involved in this process when we became aware of it, and it's hard for me to understand why if we want the best available science, why don't we take the time to gather that science."
And that led to another topic - a lack of research. "The Fish and Wildlife Service has a reputation of going into these things without having good data," says Midland man Morris Burns.
And while the oil industry is one of the main concerns, it's not the only one. Midland City Councilman Jeffs Sparks took the podium and said, "The City of Midland has secured water rights in Winkler County, and we've been working for serval years to come up with partnerships with other communities to bring that water to Midland. If you do not allow us to bring our water into town, we're not only going to not have jobs, we won't have water. And the endangered species are going to be the people of West Texas."
Congressman Mike Conaway, Dist. 11, stressed, "These people are the ones that are going to be affected and please remember these faces when you make hard decision. If you decide this lizard needs to be listed help us help you make that work. And don't penalize West Texas because of the system that is in place."
If you weren't able to make it to the hearing and you want to voice your concerns, U.S. Fish and Wildlife will be accepting public comments up until May 9th. They can be posted online at www.regulation.gov.
Their final decision will be made this December.