TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ A federal appeals court has directed Interior Secretary Gale Norton to reconsider her decision not to list the flat-tailed horned lizard for protection as a threatened species.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Norton failed to consider ``important factors'' in deciding not to designate the lizard as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The court called the decision ``arbitrary and capricious.''

The secretary has argued that adequate habitat exists on public land to ensure the lizard's viability.

The lizard's natural habitat extends from southwestern Arizona and northwestern Mexico across part of Southern California.

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On the Net:

9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/

Tucson Herpetological Society: http://www.arts.arizona.edu/herp/flat.html