Two central Texas salamanders listed as endangered
AUSTIN — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Monday protected two Texas salamanders under the Endangered Species Act and designated 4,451 acres as critical habitat for the rare amphibians.
The decision to protect the Jollyville Plateau salamander and Austin blind salamander was spurred by a landmark settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity in 2011 that is expediting federal protection decisions for 757 imperiled species across the country.
“This is a critical step toward saving these two salamanders that live nowhere else in the world. But we can’t forget that it’s also an important step for the region’s long-term water quality and health,” Collette Adkins Giese, a Center lawyer who works to save imperiled amphibians and reptiles, said. “Protecting the clean water and habitat that these salamanders need will also protect all the plants and animals that share their landscape, including humans.”
The fully aquatic salamanders live in springs in Travis and Williamson counties in central Texas. They require clean, well-oxygenated water and are threatened by activities that pollute or reduce water flow to their aquatic habitats.
Austin blind salamanders are now protected as an “endangered species” with 120 acres of protected habitat, and Jollyville Plateau salamanders are protected as a “threatened species” with 4,331 acres of protected habitat.
“Endangered Species Act protection for the salamanders also protects the springs that give drinking water and recreation to Texas communities,” said Adkins Giese. “These Texas salamanders cannot survive in waterways polluted with pesticides, industrial chemicals and other toxins so they are excellent indicators of the health of the environment.”
The Austin blind and Jollyville Plateau salamanders have spent years waiting in line for federal protection.
As part of an agreement with the Center, the Service agreed to issue protection decisions for them by the end of 2013.
The service also announced a six-month extension for its final decision on the Georgetown salamander and Salado salamander, two other salamanders the agency proposed to protect last year.