Conservation Matters August 2013

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Austin Blind and Jollyville Plateau salamanders listed under Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced on Aug. 20 the listing of the Austin blind and Jollyville Plateau salamanders under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the designation of 4,451 acres of critical habitat for both species in portions of Travis and Williamson counties in central Texas.

FWS is also publishing a 6-month extension of the final determinations for the Georgetown and Salado salamanders and is reopening the public comment period for those species for 30 days.

Based on new information received since publication of the Aug. 22, 2012, listing proposal, FWS is listing the Jollyville Plateau salamander as threatened and not endangered. FWS is listing the Austin blind salamander as an endangered species. According to FWS, the total amount of critical habitat designated in Travis and Williamson counties in the final rule decreased 603 acres compared to the proposed rule.

Public comments received by FWS since publication of the listing proposal have expressed concerns related to the sufficiency and accuracy of the available data related to the listing proposal for the Georgetown and Salado salamanders. In consideration of these concerns, FWS is extending the final listing and critical habitat determinations for these two species in order to solicit scientific information that will help clarify these issues, according to FWS.

“We have carefully evaluated the public comments received on the salamander proposal and our actions reflect the best available science,” said Adam Zerrenner, the FWS Austin Field Office supervisor. “The Service is committed to continuing to work with the local communities, landowners and others to conserve the salamanders and the Edwards Aquifer. A healthy Edwards Aquifer is important for the continued vitality of the communities as well as the plant and animal species dependent upon it.”

According to FWS, the most significant threat to the salamander species is the degradation of habitat in the form of reduced water quality and quantity, and disturbance of spring sites, and recent drought conditions are also negatively impacting water resources.

The Austin blind, Jollyville Plateau, Georgetown and Salado salamanders are entirely aquatic and dependent upon water from the Edwards Aquifer, according to FWS. The Austin blind salamander resides in the Barton Springs Segment of the Edwards Aquifer, while the others reside in habitat dependent on the northern segment of the Edwards Aquifer. The Jollyville Plateau salamander also depends on groundwater from other aquifer sources, such as the Trinity Aquifer and local alluvial aquifers.

To learn more about the listing, see the full FWS news release or read documents from the entire listing process, provided by the FWS Austin office. To learn more about the Endangered Species program, go to fws.gov/endangered and for more information from the Service’s Southwest region office, see fws.gov/southwest.

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