For Immediate Release, August 17, 2021

Contact:

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

More Than 1,300 Acres of Critical Habitat Designated for Two Central Texas Salamanders

Urban Sprawl Threatens Georgetown, Salado Salamanders’ Freshwater Habitat

AUSTIN, Texas— Following a legal victory by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 1,315 acres in the Austin area as protected critical habitat for the Georgetown and Salado salamanders.

The critical habitat protects 732 acres for the Georgetown salamander and 583 acres for the Salado salamander. The protected areas include an underground aquifer, spring outlets and spring runs.

The final designation excludes approximately 200 acres of proposed critical habitat for the Salado salamander because it is already under a perpetual conservation easement. The Service also declined to include unoccupied habitat upstream and downstream from spring openings in its final designation, even though these areas are needed to bolster salamander populations against projected development and rapid climate change.

“With mounting threats on the horizon, we need bolder action to save these salamanders,” said Elise Bennett, a Center attorney. “This is an important step, but the Service should have used its full legal power to protect all the places these salamanders need for recovery, not just their survival.”

The Georgetown and Salado salamanders have brownish bodies and feathery red gills crowning their heads. The Georgetown salamander has large eyes with golden irises, and the Salado 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 key to saving these springs-loving salamanders is protecting the places they live,” said Bennett. “That means protecting clean water, which will also have lasting benefits for generations of people across the region.”

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. That habitat designation was more than five years overdue.

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Georgetown salamander photo by Nathan Bendik. Image is available for media use.

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.