Two Central Texas Salamanders Receive Endangered Species Act Protections
AUSTIN, Texas— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on August 19 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,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center lawyer who works to save imperiled amphibians and reptiles. “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 can't 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 the Service's 2011 agreement with the Center, the agency agreed to issue protection decisions for them by the end of 2013.
The Service today 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.
Austin blind salamander (Travis County): The Austin blind salamander has external, feathery gills, a pronounced extension of the snout, no external eyes and weakly developed tail fins. It occurs in and around Barton Springs in Austin. These springs are fed by the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer, which covers roughly 155 square miles from southern Travis County to northern Hays County. The salamander is threatened by degradation of its aquatic habitats from pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers. Another threat to the Austin blind salamander and its ecosystem is low flow conditions in the Edwards Aquifer and at Barton Springs.
Jollyville Plateau salamander (Travis and Williamson counties): Jollyville Plateau salamanders that occur in spring habitats have large, well-developed eyes, but some cave forms of Jollyville Plateau salamanders exhibit cave-associated morphologies, such as eye reduction, flattening of the head and dullness or loss of color. The salamanders’ spring-fed habitat typically occurs in depths of less than 1 foot of cool, well-oxygenated water. The animals live in the Jollyville Plateau and Brushy Creek areas of the Edwards Plateau in Travis and Williamson counties. Scientists have observed significant population declines for the salamander, likely as a result of poor water quality from urban development.
Contact Info: Collette L. Adkins Giese, (651) 955-3821
Website : Center for Biological Diversity