In recent weeks Williamson County officials have waged an escalating war against the the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as it faces a September deadline to decide whether to propose as “endangered” three salamander species that live in the Northern Edwards Aquifer and no where else on earth. For years, the Service has been violating the Endangered Species Act listing deadlines on the salamander species and hundreds of others. The September deadline comes from a comprehensive settlement the Service entered earlier this year with the Center for Biological Diversity over the Service’s wholesale violation of its duty to list species in a timely or orderly process. The Act dictates that the Service only list species as “endangered” or “threatened” where the “best scientific and commercial information available” tells us that the species is at significant risk of extinction in the absence of federal protection.
The Jollyville Plateau salamander lives in springs and the Northern Edwards aquifer in northern Travis and southern Williamson counties. The Georgetown Salamander lives in Williamson County while the Salado Salamander is found at Salado Springs in Bell County – the most northerly extent of the Edwards Aquifer.
SOS Alliance petitioned to list the Jollyville Plateau salamander as endangered in June 2005. Had USFWS complied with its legal obligations under the ESA, the species would have been listed and protected no later than 2008. Read our 2005 petition and further JP salamander information HERE.
This week Congressman John Carter, R-Texas, held a press conference announcing his move to introduce legislation that would prohibit the Service from taking action to list any of the Edwards Aquifer salamander species as endangered before 2014. In an “up-is-down” argument, the Congressman insisted that his bill would substitute “sound science” for the “political” process underway at the USFWS. The ESA dictates that all USFWS listing decisions be based solely on the “best science.” Generally, legislative attacks on ESA implementation have failed over the last 20 years. Stay tuned for more Williamson County salamander war news next week.