The Dunes Sagebrush Lizard did not vote in November’s presidential election, but it had a lot riding on the outcome. In the coming months, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether to list the lizard as endangered—a designation that would make it an offense even to disturb its habitat.
This matters a lot to the lizard. But it also matters to the drillers and frackers of southeastern New Mexico and West Texas, home both to the shinnery oak dunes in which the lizard lives but also to the shale rocks of the Permian Basin, the world’s most prolific oil field.
Environmental concerns are about to rise up the federal agenda, with the impact likely to be felt from the Permian Basin to power plants, reptiles to renewable energy. After four years of a Donald Trump administration that sought to open protected areas to drillers, erase limits on pollution, and support fossil fuel production in the name of furthering “American energy dominance,” Joe Biden’s electoral triumph has brought the promise of abrupt change.