Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Feds: Austin-area salamanders' endangered listing could cost $29M in developmental impacts

Possible designation of critical habitats for the Jollyville, Georgetown, Salado and Austin Blind salamanders could cost $29 million in developmental impacts during the next 23 years, according to a draft economic analysis released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Jan. 25. The designation of critical habitats has been a concern throughout Williamson County as officials fear the measure could hamper development in the area. The $29 million figure accounts for impacts to possible development, transportation, mining, and species and habitat management activities in the proposed habitats, but it does not cover water management activities, utility projects and livestock grazing activities, according to the analysis. Williamson County Commissioner Valerie Covey, who serves on the board of the Williamson County Conservation Foundation, said the science and economic impact do not justify listing the salamanders. "I believe the decision should be science-based, and the science does not prove or substantiate the need to list the salamander," Covey said. "So when you look at that and you look at the financial impact it's going to have on our county, it frustrates me greatly to see that a decision is going to be made for political reasons, not science-based."...more

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