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Protection Sought For California Fish And Lizard Species

This undated photo provided by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service shows Santa Ana speckled dace fish.
Paul Barrett / United States Fish and Wildlife Service via AP
This undated photo provided by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service shows Santa Ana speckled dace fish.

A tiny fish native to Southern California streams and a legless, sand-swimming lizard will be studied to determine whether they qualify for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, a conservation group said Wednesday.

The Center for Biological Diversity said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will begin a status review of the Santa Ana speckled dace in response to a petition filed by the group last year.

Also studied will be the Temblor legless lizard, which the conservation group said lives only in a small area of the southern San Joaquin Valley, where it is jeopardized by oil and gas drilling.

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The dace, a type of minnow, is found in the Santa Ana, San Jacinto, San Gabriel and Los Angeles river systems.

According to the center, dams, water diversions and urbanization have eliminated Santa Ana speckled dace from three-quarters of their former stream habitats, and they face continuing threats including drought, fires, invasive species and climate change.

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Remaining small populations of the species are now mostly in headwater tributaries within national forests, where they prefer perennial streams fed by cool springs with overhanging vegetation and shallow gravel beds for spawning.

The Temblor legless lizard, which resembles a snake, lives only on the east side of the Temblor Mountain Range in Kern County.

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Most of the lizard's habitat is privately owned and highly developed for oil and gas drilling that threatens it through habitat destruction.

“The legless lizards are highly sensitive to the noise and light generated by drilling operations," the conservation group said in a statement. “Climate change, wildfires, invasive species, and habitat loss from urban development and the construction of large-scale solar projects are also threats to the lizard’s survival."