Salamander listing moving forward, public hearings in September

Posted in Take Action, Williamson County at 12:08 pm by wcnews

On Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced it’s decision to move forward with listing several species of salamanders that occur in Central Texas, (including Williamson County), as endangered species.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release from the USFWS announcement on Tuesday, Service Seeks Public Comment on Proposal to List Four Central Texas Salamanders.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that it will seek public comment on a proposal to protect four salamander species occurring within central Texas as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service is also seeking comment on a proposal to designate critical habitat for these species in Bell, Travis, and Williamson Counties.

The four salamander species, the Austin blind salamander (Eurycea waterlooensis), Jollyville Plateau salamander (Eurycea tonkawae), Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia) and the Salado salamander (Eurycea chisholmensis), are presently in danger of extinction throughout their range based on threats from habitat degradation, including reduced water quality and quantity and disturbance of spring sites. Water quality and quantity in the Edwards Aquifer is also being negatively impacted by increasing urbanization and population growth in areas that flow to where the salamanders are found.

One point of contention is whether the Jollyville Plateau, Georgetown, and Salado salamanders are not three, but one species. If it’s one species and not three it could make a difference in whether they are list as endangered, Coalition study: Only one salamander species in WilCo, not three.

The Texas Salamander Coalition sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on July 26 that said the three salamander species found in Williamson County are, in fact, the same species.

The nonprofit was formed to represent people whose property value could be affected if USFWS lists certain salamander species in the area as endangered.

The letter refers to a review completed by Michael Forstner and funded by the coalition that analyzed studies supporting the three salamanders as separate species.


Forstner’s research, including a genetic study funded by the TSC, concluded that the three species, including the Jollyville, Georgetown and Salado salamanders are the same but possess different physical attributes, according to a news release from the group.

The coalition presented the three scientific papers to USFWS based on analyses of DNA and a review of existing scientific papers that support the one species theory.

Kleeman said that if the Georgetown, Jollyville and Salado salamanders are one species, it would affect how the species is treated and if it would be listed as endangered.

According to the news release, the TSC requests a independent review of the DNA study and other issues, including using experts from outside Texas.

It is certainly understandable that those people whose property value and livelihoods could be affected by this ruling are concerned.

It’s certainly up to all of us to get educated on this issue. The best place to start would be reading through the USFWS FAQ [LINK] and study from the TSC [LINK]. And also attend one of the upcoming public hearings.

September 5, 2012 – Williamson County
Informational meeting – 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Public hearing – 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Wingate by Wyndham Round Rock
1209 N. IH 35 North, Exit 253 at Hwy 79
Round Rock, Texas 78664

September 6, 2012 – Travis County
Informational meeting - 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Public hearing - 8:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Thompson Conference Center
2405 Robert Dedman Drive, Room 2.102
Austin, Texas 78705

Further Reading:
StateImpact Texas, Saving the Salamanders: Conservation vs. Development.
YNN, Small salamanders stir large controversy.

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