Privacy, beauty and romance are most people’s ingredients for a great vacation, but for the island night lizard on San Clemente Island, it’s a normal way of living.
The island night lizard is unique in many ways. First, it shares its paradise of land, air and sea ranges with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and other military services. While military training activities can occur from dusk to dawn, the island night lizard has no activity during the night, as its name would suggest, but is most active at mid-day with little activity in the early mornings and late afternoons. Another unique aspect to this species is that it is long-lived up to 25 years and gives birth to live young, compared with other reptiles which lay eggs that must be incubated and protected to hatch.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the island night lizard as threatened in 1977, mainly because there was not enough known information about this lizard and its habitat. With that lack of information, it was better to be safe than sorry, so the agency placed the island night lizard on the endangered species list. The agency now says the lizards are numbered in the millions and took them off the threatened list as of May 1, 2014.
The Navy was careful not to affect the lizard’s natural resources and habitat while conducting readiness training, research development, tests and evaluation activities until adequate data could be acquired.
“Anytime a species is found only on this island and is listed under the endangered Species Act, the Navy has to develop a plan to protect it,” said Melissa A. Booker, who is the Navy’s Wildlife Biologist on San Clemente Island. “It is the legally required thing to do and practical for supporting the mission, although it involves costs and can be cumbersome to the mission.”
“San Clemente Island harbors more endangered species than most states, with six plants, three birds, as well as the island night lizard,” Booker added.
Through the years, several thorough reviews have been done with analysis to determine the true status of the island night lizard. The findings showed the population is stable and viable. Because of these finding, the U.S. Navy petitioned for the removal of the island night lizard from the endangered species list.
“When the island night lizard was first discovered it was considered to be rare because of the absence of information and not enough data,” said Andy Yatsko, senior archaeologist for Environmental Operations and Planning, Natural and Cultural Resources, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, San Diego. “For the Navy to be able to delist a species from a threatened category is good for the Navy’s statistics. It is a prime example of the Navy’s good stewardship. The delisting will save on costs and allow less impact to training,” Yatsko said.
The night lizard lives in areas throughout the island, many of which are in close proximity to the Navy’s operational areas and facilities that support both research and operational training for ships and aircraft of the Pacific Fleet.
“After years of research used to evaluate the island night lizard, it indicates that the lizards’ population is stable and Navy activities do not have an adverse effect on these inhabitants,” Yatsko said. “The success in achieving the removal of the island night lizard from the endangered list reflects on both Naval Base Coronado’s regulatory accomplishments in reaching this milestone and the command’s effective stewardship responsibilities.”
“As the federal landowner, the Commander Navy Region Southwest, San Diego, and Commander Naval Base Coronado’s compliance with the Endangered Species Act for listed species on San Clemente Island is the element that has continued to allow the military mission to be achieved,” Yatsko added.
The Navy’s commitment to its environmental responsibilities with proactive work toward conservation and recovery of listed species is how the delisting of the island night lizard is made possible. Once the night lizard is taken off the endangered list, mission encumbrances will be lessened. The Navy will continue with its stewardship efforts to take into account this species’ needs in addition to the partnership for outreach and awareness. The night lizard’s recovery is a perfect example of a winning partnership between our country’s national defense and environmental requirements that have maintained a successful habitat of restoration and conservation actions.
Now that the night lizard has been removed from federal listing this little, sneaky, long-lived reptile gets to continue living on its island resort home.