Salado: Salamander Talk Continues, New Comments Filed

By: Brittany Semadeni Email
By: Brittany Semadeni Email

SALADO (March 15, 2013)--The Bell County coalition of stakeholders and the United States Fish and Wildlife Services are continuing talks in an effort to reach a verdict on whether or not the Salado Salamander is an endangered species.

A decision must be reached by August.

Last August, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a proposed rule to list the Salado Salamander and three other salamanders as endangered and to designate 372 acres as a critical habitat for the species.

According to USFWS, “The most significant threat to these four species is degradation of their aquatic habitat in the form of reduced water quality, resulting from increasing urbanization in the area.”

However, the Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District (UGWD) and Bell County Commissioners Court are in disagreement with the rule citing flawed conclusions.

The Clearwater UGWD submitted comments to USFWS last year explaining that existing regulatory mechanisms in the geographical region of Bell County ensures continuous springflows and thereby protects water quantity and water quality.

In the last year, the Bell County coalition of stakeholders has grown to include county officials, Clearwater UWCD, Salado WSC, Jarrell-Schwertner Water Supply Corporation and the Village of Salado.

The stakeholders have funded an effort to “study, understand, dispute, interpret and react.”

This week the group filed a second round of public comment on the proposal.

The comment concluded that “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.”

Texas A&M University Researcher and Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles Dr. Toby Hibbitts and Baylor University geology and hydrogeology professor Dr. Yelderman began research last year to better understand the distribution of the salamanders.

Dye tracer studies were also conducted to determine flow velocities and potential flow paths for Big Boiling and other downtown springs.

USFWS also filed a report this week stating that they intend to list three salamander species including that of Salado as needing a special habitat.

The coalition says they are working hard to advocate and protect the interests implicated by USFWS’s proposal.

A decision must be made by August.

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