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Energy & Environment

Development push around Hamilton Pool sparks petition to list local salamander as endangered

A conservation group has filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Pedernales River springs salamander as "endangered" or "threatened." The salamander is found in springs near Travis County’s Hamilton Pool Preserve.
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A conservation group has filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Pedernales River springs salamander as "endangered" or "threatened." The salamander is found in springs near Travis County’s Hamilton Pool Preserve.

Save Our Springs Alliance, an Austin-based environmental group, has petitioned the federal government to add another local salamander to its list of threatened and endangered species. The group says its petition was triggered by proposals to build new subdivisions in the area around Hamilton Pool in Dripping Springs.

Federal protections for other amphibians, like the Barton Springs salamander, have restricted development over some sensitive aquifer recharge zones in Central Texas. Save Our Springs Alliance hopes protections for the Pedernales River springs salamander will do the same for the area around Hamilton Pool, where developers are planning to put in new subdivisions.

Bill Bunch, the head of SOS, says new homes in the area could lower aquifer levels and contaminate groundwater.

“Managing the wastewater from the developments is certainly a threat, but also the urban runoff from parking lots, streets, driveways, rooftops and then the use of fertilizer and pesticides in landscaping,” he says.

The petition, filed Sept. 20, sets off a 90-day review period after which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must respond.

Bunch says lawsuits may follow if Fish and Wildlife does not agree to list the salamander.

Previous petitions like this have pitted environmental and water quality groups against developers and local landowners opposed to increased regulation and restrictions to homebuilding needed to meet booming housing demand in Central Texas.

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