On August 20, 2013, the Service listed the Austin blind and Jollyville Plateau salamanders under the Endangered Species Act and designated 4,451 acres of critical habitat for both species in portions of Travis and Williamson Counties, Texas. At that same time, the Service also published a 6-month extension of the final determinations for the Georgetown and Salado salamanders (see Third Comment Period below).
On January 7, 2014, the Service announced the reopening of the comment period on the August 22, 2012, listing proposal for the Georgetown salamander and the Salado salamander. The Service reopened the comment period in order to consider the City of Georgetown’s final ordinances for water quality and urban development. The ordinances were passed by the Georgetown City Council on December 20, 2013 (see Fourth Comment Period below).
On February 21, 2104, the Service announced that the Georgetown and Salado Salamanders would be listed as threatened and, recognizing Williamson County and the City of Georgetown's efforts to protect water quality, proposed a special rule to allow limited take of the Georgetown Salamander. Public comments on this proposal were accepted through April 25, 2014 (see Fifth Comment Period below).
On April 9, 2015, the Service published a revised proposed 4(d) rule for the Georgetown salamander. The rule if adopted would enable development activities to continue if they are in compliance with the measures in the City of Georgetown’s Unified Development Code. The Service also announced the reopening of the comment period on the revised 4(d) rule and the availability of the draft Environmental Assessment on the 4(d) rule (see Revised 4(d) Rule Comment Period below).
The following additional information is provided to help you understand the Federal listing status of four salamanders in central Texas. These salamanders include: Austin blind salamander (Eurycea waterlooensis), Jollyville Plateau salamander (Eurycea tonkawae), Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia), and Salado salamander (Eurycea chisholmensis).
All four salamander species are entirely aquatic and depend on water from the Edwards Aquifer in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their life history requirements for survival, growth, and reproduction. The Austin blind salamander resides in the Barton Springs Segment of the Edwards Aquifer, while the other three species reside in habitat dependent on the Northern Segment of the Edwards Aquifer, including springs and spaces in the subsurface aquifer. The most significant threat to these four species is degradation of their aquatic habitat in the form of reduced water quality and quantity and disturbance of spring sites.
Initiation of the listing proposal process for the four central Texas salamanders is a part of the terms of a multi-year listing work plan approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on September 9, 2011. This work plan, developed through a settlement agreement with WildEarth Guardians and a separate, smaller settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, will enable the agency to systematically, over a period of 6 years, review and address the needs of more than 250 species now on the candidate list, to determine if they require ESA protection. The four salamanders were on the candidate list for 5 to 10 years. A list of these candidate species is available by clicking on the Candidate Notice of Review link in the first paragraph at the Service's Listing Workplan website.
For more information on candidates and the listing program, you can read:
At certain times during the listing process, the Service publishes documents and requests public comments. Comments can be submitted electronically or by hard copy. As warranted, the Service also provides public hearings and accepts verbal coments at those time.
First Comment Period (Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0035): The first comment period for the proposed salamander listing process ended October 22, 2012. During that period, the Service asked for comments regarding the Proposed Rule and designation of critical habitat.
The Service also held, two public information meetings and public hearings in Travis and Williamson counties on September 5-6, 2012 regarding the proposed listing of the four salamander species. The informational meetings provided interested parties an opportunity to ask questions related to the proposed rule. The public hearings were formal events where public comments related to the proposal were captured for the record by a court reporter.
Documents available during the first comment period included:
You can view comments provided during the first comment period at http://www.regulations.gov. You will need to put "Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0035" in the search box to get the appropriate information. From the results you get with that search, you will need to find the section with the note: Proposed Rule by FWS on 8/22/2012. Click on "open Docket Folder" on the right side of that section. The comments can be found after the primary and supporting document links.
Transcripts of the hearings can be downloaded using the links below.
Second Comment Period (Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2013-0001): A second comment period opened on January 25, 2013 and closed on March 11, 2013. Comments were sought during this comment period regarding the draft Economic Analysis of the effects of designating critical habitat and to changes to the proposed critical habitat which were outlined in the January 25, 2013 Notice of Availability. These changes to the proposed critical habitat were based on new information submitted during the first comment period. Comments on the proposed listing were also accepted during the second comment period.
Documents available during the second comment period included:
To view comments received during the second comment period, visit http://www.regulations.gov. and put "FWS-R2-ES-2013-0001" in the search box. Click "Open Docket Folder" on the right to see additional information and scroll down to the comments section.
Third Comment Period (Opened - 8/20/2013, Closed - 9/19/2013): During the reopened 30-day public comment period for the Georgetown and Salado salamanders, the Service solicited input from concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry and other interested parties. Written comments had to be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on September 19, 2013. For further information on how to review and/or download these documents see below. The Service will make a final listing determination for the Georgetown and Salado salamanders no later than February 22, 2014.
To view comments received during the third comment period, visit http://www.regulations.gov. and put the appropriate docket number (see below) in the search box. Click "Open Docket Folder" on the right to see additional information and scroll down to the comments section
Docket No. for Listing: FWS-R2-ES-2012-0035
Docket No. for Critical Habitat:
Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2013-0001
Documents available for review during third comment period included:
Fourth Comment Period (Opened - 1/7/2014, Closed - 1/22/2014): During the reopened 15-day public comment period for the Georgetown and Salado salamanders, the Service solicited input from concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry and other interested parties. The Service reopened the comment period in order to consider the City of Georgetown’s ordinances for water quality and urban development. For further information on how to review and/or download these documents, see below.
To view comments received during the fourth comment period, visit http://www.regulations.gov. and put the appropriate docket number (see below) in the search box. Click "Open Docket Folder" on the right to see additional information and scroll down to the comments section
Docket No. for Listing: FWS-R2-ES-2012-0035
Docket No. for Critical Habitat: Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2013-0001
Documents available for review during fourth comment period included:
Fifth Comment Period (Opened - 2/24/2014, Closed - 4/25/2014) The final rule listing the Georgetown and Salado salamanders as threatened published in the Federal Register on February 24, 2014 and became affective 30 days after publication.
The Service sought public comments on a special rule for the Georgetown salamander that would allow development activities to continue if they are in compliance with ordinances adopted in December of 2013 by Williamson County and the City of Georgetown to protect water quality (see Fourth Comment Period above for copies of the ordinances). The 60-day comment period for the proposed special rule ran from February 24, 2014 through April 25, 2104.
Comments were submitted by one of the following methods:
(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
In the Search box, enter FWS–R2–ES–2014–0008, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”
(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing,
Attn: FWS–R2–ES–2014–0008; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
We request that you send comments only by one of the methods described above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. We will consider all comments and information received during our preparation of a final 4(d) special rule. Accordingly, the final rule may differ from this proposal.
Documents available for review during fifth comment period included:
In February 2014, the Service listed the Georgetown salamander as threatened and proposed a 4(d) rule for the species. Under the original proposed 4(d) rule for the salamander, incidental take resulting from activities that are consistent with conservation measures in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone Water Quality Ordinance would not be prohibited under the ESA. Since publication of the proposed 4(d) rule, the City of Georgetown has incorporated and expanded upon the ordinance in their Unified Development Code, which is the primary tool used by the City to regulate development. The revised proposed 4(d) rule provides greater clarity around the activities that would be covered.
For more information and instructions for commenting, see the documents below.