Rep. Carter announces legislation to stall listing of salamanders as endangered

U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-District 31, announced his plans June 18 to introduce legislation that would block the listing of four Central Texas salamander species as endangered or threatened until 2014.

Carter said the amendment to the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill would prevent federal funds being used for any activities related to listing of the Austin Blind, Salado, Jollyville Plateau and Georgetown salamanders until ongoing research on the species is concluded.

The Williamson County Conservation Foundation is in the midst of a five-year study on the salamanders, and the Texas Salamander Coalition, an organization comprised of landowners in the affected areas, is also funding research of the species.

"Thus far, all of the studies seem to be showing the salamanders seem to be thriving in these areas," Carter said.

He said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had indicated the agency plans to make a decision by September.

The June 18 news conference was held in Southwest Williamson County underneath Toll 45 near FM 620. Cater said a nearby spring held about 100 of the salamanders, showing that development does not always adversely affect the species, he said.

Williamson County Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman, president of the WCCF board, said the county already enacts measures to ensure water quality is not affected when road projects are under construction.

"There are things you can do," Birkman said, noting the county is taking precautions with the work being done on O'Connor Drive.

Carter said the environmental research would determine if the salamanders need additional protection beyond the measures that are already in place.

"It's all about us existing with them and doing it in the right way," Carter said.