Today U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and U.S. Representative John Carter (R-Round Rock) wrote to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) requesting a six month extension for the proposed listing of four species of Central Texas salamanders as endangered or threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS):
"We have been working closely with the Williamson County Conservation Foundation (WCCF) and other stakeholders on the proposed listing, and we believe that there is significant disagreement regarding the sufficiency and accuracy of the scientific information that the Service is using to make a listing determination," they wrote.
Listing the salamanders could potentially hinder job growth and economic development in the Central Texas region. Sen. Cornyn and Rep. Carter have introduced the Salamander Community Conservation Act, which would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to halt the premature proposed listing of the Austin blind, Georgetown, Jolleyville Plateau, and Salado salamanders. Sen. Cornyn and Rep. Carter previously sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife Regional Director Ben Tuggle asking the FWS to consider all relevant and reliable information before making a final determination.
Text of the full letter is below:
June 28, 2013
The Honorable Daniel M. Ashe
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1849 C Street. NW
Washington, D.C. 20240
Dear Director Ashe:
As you know, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to make a final listing and critical habitat determination for four Central Texas salamanders by August 22, 2013, which is one year from the date that the Service published the proposed rule in the Federal Register. We have been working closely with the Williamson County Conservation Foundation (WCCF) and other stakeholders on the proposed listing, and we believe that there is significant disagreement regarding the sufficiency and accuracy of the scientific information that the Service is using to make a listing determination. Therefore, we respectfully request that you extend the final listing deadline by 6 months in accordance with ESA section 4 (b)(6)(B)(i).
The WCCF has taken a proactive role and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for conservation and scientific study of the Georgetown salamander (GTS) and the Jollyville Plateau salamander (JPS). The WCCF purchased two tracts of preserve land that benefit the GTS: Twin Springs Preserve and the Cobbs Cavern Karst Faunal Area. The Williamson County Regional Habitat Conservation Plan (RHCP) provides funding for and requires implementation of a five-year study on the GTS. That study, led by Dr. Benjamin Pierce at Southwestern University, is approaching the end of its third year and gathers data on the range of the GTS, water quality and quantity, and GTS presence/abundance. The WCCF is also funding a separate study on the JPS led by Dr. Michael Forstner at Texas State University, which studies JPS locations in Williamson County, as well as constituent elements and toxicity effects on the JPS. The WCCF also funded a technical report written by SWCA Environmental Consultants, which was submitted to the Service on October 22, 2012 during a public comment period and provides robust scientific information indicating that there exists a marked disagreement relative to the science on the GTS and JPS. A technical team is also holding regular meetings until October to educate local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff on the unique hydrology of the northern Edwards Aquifer and how current local water quality regulations work.
As you, of course, know section 4 of the ESA requires the Service to make a final listing determination within one year of its proposed rule to list a species, but the Service may extend this deadline by six months if "there is substantial disagreement regarding the sufficiency or accuracy of the available data." 16 U.S.C. § 1533(b)(6)(B)(i). Here, a 6-month extension of the final listing deadline is appropriate because the results of the WCCF conservation efforts and studies are contrary to the position of the Service in the proposed listing rule.
We trust that you will give this request your full consideration.