Central Texas salamanders could not be added to the list of endangered species under legislation to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week by Congressman John Carter (R-TX31).
In a news conference at a salamander habitat location in south Williamson County, Carter announced legislation blocking federal funds for any activities related to listing of the Austin Blind, Salado, Jollyville Plateau, and Georgetown Salamanders in Bell, Williamson, and Travis counties as endangered or threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The measure would prohibit a listing change prior to 2014 to allow ongoing environmental field studies to determine whether the salamanders need additional protections beyond those already enacted and pending by local governments.
"This decision is in great danger of being determined by politics and lawsuits rather than reliable and replicable scientific research," says Carter. "The fact that we stand in a location with a healthy salamander population adjacent to a major highway intersection shows we are protecting our salamanders and that the salamanders are not threatened by reasonable economic development. Future plans to protect our salamander populations should be made with the research data currently being gathered on this issue, rather than through politically-motivated court orders that seek to impose regulatory restrictions not warranted by fact."
"Williamson County has historically made an effort of preserving the environment for future generations. So this is not about the County standing in the way of clean water efforts. Our monitoring results show that there are numerous populations of the species in the County. Many of these locations are already in preserved areas, but healthy populations have been found in the midst of development as well," said Williamson County Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey.
"We are in just the second year of a five-year study on the salamanders. Our research and monitoring efforts are comprehensive, current and conducted in a scientific fashion. The Service is relying on inconsistently-obtained and not validated information collected by the City of Austin to move forward with their listing. The best available science must be used as the basis for this decision," stated Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman, president of the Williamson County Conservation Foundation Board.