Save Our Springs champions this endangered salamander in recent legal initiatives
While most people who are familiar with Barton Springs know of the beloved and endangered Barton Springs Salamander, today we’re discussing another salamander that needs our help, the Pedernales River springs salamander.
Across Texas, the Edwards and Trinity Aquifers and their springs are home to several endangered and threatened species. Due to the unique ecosystem Hill Country limestone-filtered spring water produces, these species are not found anywhere else in the world. To date, there are 13 federally listed endangered species in the Edwards Aquifer.
According to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) an endangered species is “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Whereas a threatened species is “any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”
Pedernales River Springs Salamander
The Pedernales River springs salamander was discovered in 1989 near Travis County’s Hamilton Pool Preserve. While the name is a mouthful, it is quite literal. This tiny salamander lives along the Pedernales River in springs-filled pools and underground spaces where Travis, Hays, and Blanco counties converge near Hamilton Pool.
The Pedernales River Springs Salamander has yet to be formally described with U.S. Fish and Wildlife. However, researchers at the University of Texas Austin and at U.T. Arlington have confirmed its status as a distinct species.
Federal Protection Efforts
Save Our Springs, alongside other environmental groups and scientists, have been working since 2021 to establish the Pedernales River springs salamander as “endangered” under the federal Endangered Species Act.
On October 18th, 2023 Save Our Springs raised urgency with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to act soon to list the salamander as endangered since time is dwindling for the species. The salamander is a spring-dependent species with an extremely small habitat range that is facing threats from climate change, dwindling groundwater levels, and overdevelopment.
The proposed Mirasol Springs development is among the biggest threats the species now faces. Groundwater modeling predicts that pumping from the Trinity Aquifer for the Mirasol Springs development will contribute to the dewatering of the springs that the species depends on. The development would also draw water directly from the Pedernales river itself, a tributary that makes up 22% of the flow into Lake Travis, a source of Austin’s drinking water. Those same springs that the salamander resides in feed the Pedernales River, and the river is a recharge feature for the aquifer. Lastly,the development is proposing to dispose of its wastewater in a manner that would cause treated sewage to run directly into some of the springsheds that the salamanders call home.
You can learn more about threats facing the Pedernales River springs salamander from SOS’s most recent comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on our Reports and Documents webpage here. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide on whether to list the Pedernales River Springs salamander soon.
How You Can Help
While we are in a waiting period with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, we will be providing updates and actions you can take (when we know more) through our Newsletter. If you haven’t already, please sign up to join our newsletter.
You can also help by making a donation to SOS and educating others through social channels! Donations allow us to pay for species research and conservation efforts, file petitions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and cover any necessary legal costs we incur during our efforts to conserve water ecosystems throughout the Texas Hill Country.
Help spread the word and stay tuned for more information about the vulnerable Pedernales River springs salamander!
For the love of Salamanders