Agency Plans to Protect Four Texas Salamanders

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a proposal to list four Texas salamanders as endangered, under the Endangered Species Act, which the Center for Biological Diversity touts in a press release as part of a “landmark settlement.” The USFWS also plans to designate nearly 6,000 acres as critical habitat for the amphibians, according to the same proposed rule.
     “The four salamanders have spent years waiting in line for federal protection,” says the environmental group’s press release. The group’s notice of intent to sue the USFWS for not providing emergency Endangered Species Act protection for the Jollyville Plateau salamander hastened the agency’s issuance of a proposal to protect the four, according to the group’s press release. The Jollyville “is facing an imminent threat from Austin’s controversial new water-treatment project in the heart of its habitat,” the group’s press release claims.
     In addition to the Jollyville, the proposal lists the Austin blind salamander, the Georgetown salamander and the Salado salamander as possibly deserving the endangered designation. Four of ten counties along the Edwards aquifer in central Texas, where the tiny lungless aquatic amphibians live, would be designated as critical habitat.
     The agency’s proposal lists water quality degradation as the top concern for the salamanders’ survival. It also cites urbanization and human population growth as the cause for much of the threat, due to concentrated contaminants in stormwater runoff, increases in sedimentation, and alteration of the natural flow of streams by impervious cover, such as roads, sidewalks, rooftops and other man-made surfaces. The projected growth of the human population in the region is many times the projected growth for the United States as a whole, according to the proposal.
     The USFWS will accept public comments and information on the proposed rule until Oct. 22.

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