"We are here today because we strongly believe that we can move forward with energy production in the United States of America and, at the same time, move forward with conservation of important areas and important lands," said Sec. Salazar.
Companies including ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and XTO Energy have already enrolled roughly 70 percent of the habitat area in Texas.
"We thought this was a good agreement. It did protect our right to develop and continue exploring and producing oil and gas in this area and, at the same time, it did provide protection for the habitat of the sand dune lizard," said Bill Patterson, ConocoPhillips.
Eileen Dey, also with ConocoPhillips, says enrolling in the conservation plan could even preclude the need to list the species all together. "I think that's what everyone wants. It's also an insurance policy to continue operations in this habitat," said Dey.
"Hopefully, it will help us avoid the need for a listing. But if we had to list, it's an assurance that these activities will be able to continue as you're seeing them here today," said Dan Ashe, FWS director.
But not everyone agrees with the plan. Ben Sheppard, President of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association stated in a press release, "I have no problem with the theory of conservation plans when sound science supports a need. In this case, reputable science clearly indicates a conservation plan is uncalled for. The research finds resoundingly that the dunes sagebrush lizard is not threatened or endangered."
Whether you agree with the plan or not., there's one thing all oil and gas producers we've spoke with agree on....there's a lot at stake.
FWS has already delayed their decision on whether to list the sand dune lizard once. Now, their final deadline is mid-June. If you're interested in enrolling or learning more about the conservation plan, you can log on to http://texasahead.org/texasfirst/.