Today the Service released its draft economic analysis and announced the reopening of a comment period to allow the public to submit more information about the Salado Salamander and its habitat.

We are pleased that the Service opened up the period. Our coalition of stakeholders – Bell County, Clearwater UWCD, Village of Salado and Salado WSC – has been busy working to develop studies that assess whether there are any realistic impacts to the salamander caused by current activities in Bell County.

We believe that we have raised enough questions and demonstrated that the Service should take into consideration our additional work. We appreciate the collaboration among our coalition, local landowners, and the significant efforts of our local state and federal legislators, the State Comptroller and her Endangered Species Task Force formed by the Texas Legislature to address these important issues with the Service.

The Service reports a potential $29 million economic impact over a 23-year period by designating critical habitat relied on by all four salamanders located in Travis, Williamson and Bell Counties. The Service estimates that the economic impact in Bell County is only $30,000 (thirty thousand dollars) of the total $29 million. Of that amount, $18,000 relates to the I-35 construction project in the Salado area. The Service’s economic estimates are intended to define the costs of pursuing regulatory approvals required when critical habitat is designated.

Our coalition of stakeholders is actively engaged in this process, and committed to assessing and addressing any impacts to our constituents. Our consultants with Texas A&M and Baylor University are expediting their studies and we intend to convey their conclusions to the Service. We intend to keep our constituents apprised of the conclusions of our studies, and we will most certainly advocate our position with the Service.

Document Availability: You may obtain copies of the original proposed rule, this revised proposed rule, the draft economic analysis, and the refined impervious cover analysis on the Internet at at Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0035 or Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2013-0001 or by mail from the Austin Ecological Services Field Office.

The economic analysis document was posted on the Austin field office website.

Tim Brown
Bell County Commissioner, Precinct 2