For Immediate Release, September 14, 2020

Contact:

Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950, ebennett@biologicaldiversity.org

More Than 1,500 Acres of Critical Habitat Proposed for Two Central Texas Salamanders

Urban Sprawl Threatens Georgetown, Salado Springs Salamanders’ Freshwater Habitat

AUSTIN, Texas— Following a legal victory by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed 1,519 acres in the Austin area as protected critical habitat for the Georgetown and Salado Springs salamanders.

The proposal increases critical habitat for the two species by 116 acres over a previous proposal based on the discovery of new occupied habitat and refined mapping of spring locations in previously proposed units.

“Protecting the springs these rare and mysterious salamanders call home is the best hope for saving them from extinction,” said Elise Bennett, a Center attorney dedicated to protecting imperiled reptiles and amphibians. “They’ve already endured decades of pollution and destruction, so it’s critical that Fish and Wildlife Service act swiftly to finalize these critical habitat protections.”

Based on new research, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that several areas of habitat previously proposed for the Georgetown salamander are actually home to the closely related Salado Springs salamander. The agency proposes to protect 732 acres for the Georgetown salamander and 787 acres for the Salado Springs salamander.

Habitat loss and degradation from urban sprawl are pushing both species toward extinction. Because the salamanders are fully aquatic, they rely on clean, well-oxygenated water to survive.

“Protecting these salamanders means protecting the lifegiving springs and groundwater in the region,” said Bennett. “It’s a win-win for all living creatures, including people.”

The legal agreement leading to the proposal followed the Center’s 2019 lawsuit challenging the agency’s failure to designate critical habitat for the species. The habitat protections are more than five years overdue.

The Georgetown and Salado Springs salamanders have brownish bodies and feathery red gills crowning their heads. The Georgetown salamander has large eyes with golden irises, and the Salado Springs salamander has a pronounced fin along its tail.

Gills allow these salamanders to live their entire lives underwater in the interconnected crevices and passages in springs, spring runs, wet caves and groundwater around the northern part of the Edwards Aquifer in central Texas.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.