Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Barton Springs Salamander Recovery Plan Signed
Southwest Region, September 29, 2005
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The final Recovery Plan for the Barton Springs salamander (Eurycea sosorum), an endangered species that lives entirely within Zilker Park in Austin, received its final signature from Bob Cook, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on August 29, 2005. The Plan had previously been signed by Regional Director H. Dale Hall. The salamander depends on constant, clean flowing spring waters for its survival so its primary threats are the degradation of water quality and quantity.

The Recovery Plan presents recovery objectives and criteria and describes the actions needed to move the Barton Springs salamander from endangered to threatened status. The goal is to ensure the salamander's long-term viability, thus eliminating the need for Endangered Species Act protection.

Proposed recovery criteria for the Barton Springs salamander include: (1) protecting water quality; (2) avoiding and/or completely containing hazardous materials spills; (3) ensuring continuous, natural springflows at Barton Springs; (4) sustaining a healthy population throughout the Barton Springs ecosystem; (5) implementing measures to remove local threats; and, (6) establishing captive breeding populations.

The Barton Springs salamander is known to occur at the four spring outlets that make up Barton Springs located within Zilker Park. This species has one of the smallest geographic ranges of vertebrate species in North America. Water passing into, and through, Barton Springs comes from the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer, which is located in southern Travis and northern Hays counties.

The Service began working with the City of Austin, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Geological Survey, Lower Colorado River Authority, Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, developers, private property owners, and others to implement conservation measures to protect the salamander before the recovery plan was drafted. The Barton Springs Salamander Recovery Team has aided in the development of conservation strategies for the salamander that are included in the Recovery Plan.

The City of Austin has preserved approximately 15,000 acres (through fee title purchases and conservation agreements) in the Barton Springs recharge and contributing zones for the protection of water quality. Other non-profit organizations such as the Hill Country Conservancy are working to acquire lands or conservation easements in this area for the protection of the Barton Springs ecosystem as well. In 2001, the Service awarded the Hill Country Conservancy a land acquisition grant to aid in the purchase of a conservation easement for the Storm Ranch, which will protect approximately 4,000 acres of land in the Barton Springs contributing zone. Within the Barton Springs watershed, the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve also will aid in water quality protection. The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve is a regional habitat conservation initiative developed by the City of Austin and Travis County to acquire and manage land for other endangered species.

In addition to land acquisition, several other large-scale conservation measures have been conducted that help protect the Barton Springs salamander. The City of Austin is implementing a habitat conservation plan to avoid, minimize, and mitigate incidental take of this species resulting from the continued operation and maintenance of Barton Springs Pool for recreational swimming. Some of the provisions of this plan include: restoring and enhancing salamander habitat, preventing surface runoff from entering the springs, monthly monitoring of salamanders, initiating public outreach and education programs, and establishing a captive breeding program for the Barton Springs salamander. Other regional water planning groups and agencies have developed water quality protection recommendations to maintain or enhance water quality discharging from Barton Springs.

Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov
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