When the Jollyville Plateau salamander was first added to the endangered species list as a “threatened” species in 2013, the process was met with pushback from Williamson County officials who were concerned the listing would hinder development.
Due to its status as threatened, the “take” of the Jollyville Plateau salamander is prohibited—in other words, the amphibian may not be killed, harmed or removed from the wild, unless approved with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit.
It lives in springs, spring-fed streams and caves in the Jollyville Plateau and Brushy Creek areas of the Edwards Plateau, including locations in Cedar Park such as the Buttercup Creek Cave Preserve, according to USFWS documents. The USFWS states the species is threatened in part due to loss of habitat.
Hank Smith, principal and owner of Texas Engineering Solutions, said when creating an initial land plan, builders try to plan development around sensitive areas to mitigate the “take” of endangered species. Natural features, such as habitat or caves, on property housing these species may decrease development density, too.
“You can’t put as much development and as dense of development in those areas as you would without those features being there, so you have less density and tend to have more expensive, higher-end developments,” Smith said. “It raises the cost of development … raising the cost of the product.”
Gary Boyd, director of environmental programs for Williamson County, said the county’s habitat-conservation plan does not specifically address the Jollyville Plateau salamander. He said he points developers toward the city of Georgetown’s code of ordinances as an example of a best management practice to follow while constructing in areas where there are endangered salamanders.