Group forms to represent landowners in potential salamander listing

A group of landowners in Williamson County have formed the Texas Salamander Coalition, a nonprofit organization to represent people whose property value could be affected if United States Fish and Wildlife Service lists certain salamander species in the area as endangered.

"The landowners need a voice, and the Texas Salamander Coalition is providing that," said John Lewis, president of the group, which began meeting in January.

Lewis said the goal of the TSC is to educate property owners on what is taking place and to also fund studies of the salamander that USFWS could use in making its determination. He said the group also hopes to mitigate the affects of any land use restrictions.

Lesli Gray, public affairs specialist for the state of Texas with USFWS, said USFWS could publish a proposed rule to list the salamanders in late spring or early summer, after which there would be a 30 to 90 day public comment period. USFWS would have 12 months before making a final decision.

There are four Central Texas salamanders under consideration—the Georgetown Salamander, the Jollyville Plateau Salamander, the Austin Blind Salamander and the Salado Salamander.

The salamanders were put on a fast track to consideration after environmental group Wild Earth Guardians sued USFWS last year, saying the agency was not evaluating species in a timely manner. As a part of the settlement, USFWS agreed to place a timetable on making a determination on about 250 species throughout the nation during a period of six years, Gray said.

Lewis said developers are worried that if the salamanders are listed as endangered, development regulations would be implemented that are similar to the Barton Springs Recharge Zone rule adopted by the City of Austin in 1992. That rule allows for only 15 percent impervious cover, the percentage of a lot that is covered by structure or pavement, within the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.

Lewis said the TSC has contacted property owners in the potentially affected area who own 100 acres or more.

Rick Castleberry, vice president of the Texas Salamander Coalition, said development has started west of I-35 near Hwy. 29, and more is planned for the future.

He said if development costs become too high, the homes in the area would be too expensive for the average Williamson County resident to afford.

The group has hired a scientific team that is working on a report to file with USFWS. Castleberry said the group is not against protecting salamanders if they are endangered, but it just wants ensure it is done in an efficient manner.

"What we're trying to find is better science than is currently available and see that it is applied in a responsible way," TSC Treasurer Matt Harriss said.

The Williamson County Conservation Foundation is already studying the Georgetown Salamander as a part of its Regional Habitat Conservation Plan. In January, it also authorized new research funds for the Jollyville Plateau Salamander.

The TSC is in the process of applying for nonprofit status, Harriss said.

For more information, call 476-7011.



MOST RECENT

The Cullen Trust for Higher Education and Southwestern University donated $100,000 to Georgetown's The Caring Place on July 13. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Southwestern University, Cullen Trust donate $100K to local nonprofit

The Caring Place works to provide for the basic human needs of all people in Georgetown.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, shown here in March, announced July 13 the U.S. Department of Defense would provide additional resource to help Texas combat COVID-19. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Department of Defense task forces deployed to help Texas combat COVID-19

Gov. Greg Abbott announced July 13 the U.S. Department of Defense would provide more resources to Texas to combat the rise of COVID-19.

The city said residents should make sure they are only watering on their scheduled days based on address. (Courtesy city of Georgetown)
Georgetown residents may not water their lawns between noon-7 p.m. starting July 14

If water use continues to increase, further watering restrictions will be enacted.

More than 20,000 early voting ballots cast in Williamson County primary runoff election. (Community Impact staff)
More than 20,000 early voting ballots cast in Williamson County primary runoff election

Check out where you can vote on election day with our interactive map.

Drivers can now count on an improved line of sight as they travel on CR 176 toward RM 2243. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Safety improved with $2.5 million County Road 176 project in Georgetown

Drivers can now count on an improved line of sight as they travel on CR 176 toward RM 2243.

Georgetown ISD parents are split on sending their students back to school or keeping them home, a district survey said. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Georgetown ISD parents split on sending children to school or keeping them home, district survey says

The district previously said it will offer in-person and distance learning options as a result of the survey.

The Williamson County and Cities Health District confirmed 37 additional coronavirus cases July 10, bringing the total to 3,654. (Community Impact Staff)
37 new cases of coronavirus, 1 death confirmed in Williamson County on July 10

Currently, 103 patients are hospitalized, 32 are in intensive care and 16 are on a ventilator.

The species that tested positive for West Nile Virus is Culex quinquefasciatus, or the southern house mosquito. This species has a flight range of about one mile. ​(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Mosquitoes test positive for West Nile Virus near southwest Williamson County Regional Park

There have been no reported human cases of West Nile Virus in Williamson County since 2017.

Williamson County sees 844 new coronavirus cases this week

Between July 4 and July 10, Williamson County also reported 9 additional deaths.

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced in a June 30 State Board of Education meeting that students will be taking the STAAR in the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Pixabay)
Education organizations call for STAAR requirements to be waived another year

Gov. Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, testing requirements in March of earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With a clinical background in internal, pulmonary and critical care medicine, Corry has been with BCM for 20 years. He now focuses primarily on inflammatory lung diseases, such as asthma and smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. David Corry discusses immunity, vaccine production amid COVID-19 pandemic

Rapid development and distribution of a vaccine worldwide and successful achievement of herd immunity will be key players in determining the lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. David Corry, a professor of Medicine in the Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Section at Baylor College of Medicine.