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Tiny lizard could block Texas oil, gas exploration

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Sagebrush lizardDeep in the West Texas sand dunes is something that some say could threaten the state's oil and gas production: A tiny lizard. But it's not just any lizard: It's a dunes sagebrush lizard, also known as the sand dune lizard.

This little brown reptile is a concern for state officials, who hope that federal officials don't designate it an endangered species. That, they say, could disrupt oil and gas exploration in the heart of Texas' oil country, leading to higher gas prices and shrinking dollars for schools.

"It's reptile dysfunction," said Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who oversees the permanent school and university funds, which get money from royalties and leases on some of the potentially affected land. "It has the potential to bring oil exploration and production to a halt."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has had the issue before it for about a decade, is considering protections because oil and gas exploration and ranching are shrinking the lizard's habitat. A decision could come by year's end.

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