Local Blind Salamander no longer protected under Endangered Species Act

Kevin Baxter | Staff Reporter

On March 11, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decided that two Texas species do not warrant endangered status: the Blanco Blind Salamander and Rio Grande Cooter.

The Blanco Blind Salamander is a very rare and local species, which inhabits a small region of the Blanco River in Hays County. The species is so rare that it is only known from one collected specimen.

The rarity of the species, according to the FWS, raises questions concerning the existence of the species.

“Due to morphological similarities and the potential for groundwater connectivity, the Service determined the single individual found either represents a historical occurrence of another species, the Texas Blind Salamander, or a unique species that is no longer still in existence,” stated the FWS.

The uncertainty of the existence of the Blanco Blind Salamander is the reason the FWS decided not to list it under the Endangered Species Act.

“Because the Blanco Blind Salamander either does not meet the definition of a listable entity or is extinct, the status review finds it does not warrant listing under the ESA,” stated the FWS.

The Rio Grande Cooter is a colorful turtle that inhabits the Rio Grande watershed. The degradation of water quality and loss of water quantity has contributed to the decline in population.

“Currently, the Rio Grande Cooter exists in all of the river basins it historically occupied, with ten of 16 population analysis units evaluated to be at moderate to low risk of extirpation. Because the species has adequate levels of resiliency, redundancy and representation across its distribution currently and into the foreseeable future, we find that it is not warranted for listing under the ESA,” stated the FWS.

The FWS uses studies and reviews from academia, state agencies, species experts, and others to come to its conclusions. More information on the studies and documents used can be found in the Federal Register.

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