A decision about listing the Salado salamander was delayed for six months. (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo by Nate Bendik)
WASHINGTON (August 21, 2013)—The U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Wednesday has listed the Austin blind and Jollyville Plateau salamanders under the Endangered Species Act and has delayed a final determination about the Georgetown and Salado salamanders for six months.
The federal agency listed the Austin blind salamander as endangered and the Jollyville Plateau species as threatened.
The government is also designating 4,451 acres of critical habitat for the Austin blind and Jollyville Plateau salamanders in parts of Travis and Williamson Counties.
The Fish and Wildlife Service reopened a 30-day public comment period for the Georgetown and Salado salamanders.
The deadline for written comments in Sept. 19 and the service said it will make a final listing determination for the two salamanders no later than Feb. 22, 2014.
The agency says the salamanders are threatened by a degradation of habitat, and a drop in crucial water supplies because of drought and urbanization.
Earlier this year, the service estimated the economic impact of protecting habitats of the four endangered salamander species in Bell, Williamson and Travis Counties would be about $29 million over 23 years.
The agency said in a report that the costs associated with protecting about 6,000 acres in the three counties are largely administrative and said it does not foresee impacts to water management activities, utility projects, mining or livestock grazing.
But consultants for Williamson County later said the economic impact of the listing four species as endangered could top half a billion dollars.
Consultant Mike Weaver cited discrepancies over how fast the Austin-area county will grow and potential lost tax revenue.
A coalition of Bell County stakeholders including county officials, the Clearwater Underground Water Control District, the Salado Water Supply Corp., the Jarrell-Schwertner Water Supply Corp. and the Village of Salado, funded a study of the local impact of listing of the Salado salamander.
The group submitted comments to the agency, saying, “Based on the studies conducted to date, the stakeholders continue to be of the position that the Salado Salamander does not merit listing and that designation of critical habitat is unnecessary to protect the survivability of the Salado Salamander.”