Case Study: Dunes Sagebrush Lizard and Lesser Prairie Chicken


In 2011, Occidental enrolled more than 50,000 acres in a state-sponsored voluntary initiative to protect habitat for two species, the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) and the Lesser Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus). Occidental’s voluntary efforts occur through formal conservation agreements developed through a collaboration among the oil and gas and ranching industries, the State of New Mexico, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Center of Excellence for Hazardous Materials Management, which administers the program.  These agreements guide the implementation of conservation measures, including habitat restoration and enhancement and minimizing surface disturbance that are above and beyond those established by the BLM in its “Special Status Species Resource Management Plan Amendment” for southeast New Mexico to benefit these species.

In 2014, Occidental enrolled additional acreage under the existing New Mexico agreement to continue supporting conservation measures for the Lesser Prairie Chicken and the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard.  Oxy’s committed acreage is greater than 330,000 acres in New Mexico on both Federal and private lands. Occidental also enrolled significant acreage (approximately 300,00 acres) in its oil and gas interests in Texas under the voluntary Range-Wide Oil and Gas Industry agreement for the Lesser Prairie Chicken, which was developed in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA).   The Range-Wide Oil and Gas Industry agreement represents a collaborative approach to facilitate responsible oil and gas development and habitat conservation for the Lesser Prairie Chicken species throughout the bird's range.

Under all of the voluntary agreements, Occidental follows the best practices to preserve Lesser Prairie Chicken and Dunes Sagebrush Lizard habitat during oil and gas development.
In June 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife announced, “As a result of unprecedented commitments to voluntary conservation agreements now in place in New Mexico and Texas that provide for the long-term conservation of the dunes sagebrush lizard, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the species does not need to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.”
In July 2015, WAFWA published a press release stating, in part, “An abundance of spring rainfall, along with ongoing efforts associated with the Lesser Prairie-chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan, has helped increase the lesser prairie-chicken’s population approximately 25 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to results from a recent range-wide aerial survey.”  To date, the Lesser Prairie Chicken remains an unlisted species under the Endangered Species Act.