Service proposes protections for West Virginia spring salamander

Press Release
Service proposes protections for West Virginia spring salamander
Aquatic salamander found only in one Greenbrier County cave system is in danger of extinction
Media Contacts

Based on a review of the best available science, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the West Virginia spring salamander is in danger of extinction throughout its range and warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We are proposing to list the species as endangered and to designate 2.2 miles of occupied cave area as critical habitat. 

Found only in the General Davis Cave system in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, the West Virginia spring salamander has a single isolated population that has been impacted by historic collection. Although collection is no longer considered a threat to the species, the now diminished population depends on aquatic habitats the cave stream, rimstone pools, drip pools, seeps, and muddy streambanks that are vulnerable to major flooding events, which are becoming increasingly frequent due to climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change

The ESA requires the Service to identify the location of habitat essential to the conservation of the species, which is considered critical habitat. The Service is proposing to designate one unit of critical habitat that is occupied by the species, encompassing approximately 2.2 miles within the General Davis Cave. The proposed critical habitat unit is 100 percent privately owned lands. 

General Davis Cave is also a known hibernaculum for the endangered Indiana bat, but is not designated as critical habitat for Indiana bat.  

The proposed rule to list the West Virginia spring salamander as endangered with an accompanying critical habitat proposal is available for public inspection today in the Federal Register reading room:  

Tomorrow, Wednesday, December 20, 2023, the document will publish in the Federal Register — — opening a 60-day public comment period that closes on February 20, 2024. 

Comments on the proposal may be submitted through one the following methods:

(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: In the Search box, enter the docket number for this rulemaking: FWS-R5-ES-2023-0179. For best results, do not copy and paste either number; instead, type the docket number or into the Search box using hyphens. Then, click on the Search button. On the resulting page, in the panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, check the Proposed Rule box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment.”

(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R5-ES-2023-0179, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

Comments should be sent only by the methods described above. All comments will be posted on This generally means that any personal information provided will also be posted.

Today’s announcement comes as the ESA turns 50 years old in 2023. Throughout the year, the Department of the Interior will celebrate the ESA's importance in preventing imperiled species' extinction, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend. The ESA has been highly effective and credited with saving 99% of listed species from extinction.

Story Tags

Endangered and/or Threatened species