When site preparation begins sometime this summer for the newest golf course at Sand Valley Golf Resort, the crew will include the usual suspects – bulldozer operators, engineers, likely a course architect or two.

And it will include an unusual suspect – a biologist whose job it will be to have the glass lizard’s back.

Slender glass lizard

The slender glass lizard.

The site in Adams County that will become home of The Lido golf course and housing development, just north of the heralded Sand Valley, is also home to the slender glass lizard, an endangered species in Wisconsin. The Department of Natural Resources is proposing to issue a permit for “incidental taking” of the rare lizard, which refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plans that do not put the species’ overall population at risk.

The proposed development includes construction of an 18-hole private golf course designed by architect Tom Doak and construction of 17 to 20 single-family lots. The project also calls for large-scale ecological restoration work on about 850 acres at the site, similar to restoration that has taken place on thousands of acres of non-golf course property at Sand Valley.

DNR conservation biologist Rori Paloski said the proposed permit is designed to minimize the impact on the endangered species as well as to mitigate the adverse impact by increasing available acres of habitat favored by the slender glass lizard.

“With this project, that was already built in,” she said, referring to the proposed ecological restoration. According to the DNR, the slender glass lizard prefers sandy oak savannas, sand prairies, old fields with sandy soils and woodland edges on or around those areas.

The permit would not be a license to kill glass lizards during construction, Paloski said, but requires developers to minimize impact on the species and keep losses to a minimum. Paloski said an incidental taking permit “is not super unusual. Our first hope with projects is to always avoid impact on a species (but) that doesn’t always happen.”

Slender glass lizards are small and spend much of their lives underground. To minimize the potential for species losses, the permit will require that all ground disturbance work be conducted during the lizards’ active season, between May 1 and September 30, and that a biologist familiar with the slender glass lizard and with endangered species training be present for the construction. The biologist will conduct morning visual surveys to check for the presence of the lizards and remove them if observed.

All workers on the project will be shown how to recognize the lizards. Any dead lizards that are found will be recorded for age, cause of death and approximate age and the data will be reported to the Endangered Resources Review Program at the end of the project.

Paloski said the slender glass lizard “is definitely not one of our rarest species” and can be found at a number of other locations in the state. The DNR has concluded that the project is not likely to appreciably impact the survival or recovery of the species or the habitat that it needs to exist.

“Our hope is that we’ve done enough that we don’t kill any,” she said, but that could happen unintentionally. “We look at it as a balance that lets these project go through.”

The DNR requests comments from the public through Feb. 5, 2021, regarding project-related impacts to the slender glass lizard. Comments can be sent by email or phone to Rori Paloski, 608-264-6040 or rori.paloski@wi.gov.

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