Ready to Fight the Stealth Attack on Wildlife? Part Three: Salamanders

Arboreal Salamander, via Bill Bouton/Flickr

In all of your accidental or not-so-accidental  salamander sightings, have you ever seen two that were identical?

With more than 500 species across the world that span the colors of the rainbow with speckles, spots, stripes, and some that can even morph colors, each one is pretty unique. Despite their endless multicolored diversity,  they all have (at least) two things in common: 1) tails and 2) just like us, they need water to survive.

While many species of salamander can drop off parts of their body to escape danger and regenerate them later (seriously, how cool is that?), there’s no escaping polluted water. For the last year, however, members of Congress have been doing their darnedest to take the bite out of our strongest water safeguards, the ones that protect our water as it travels from the mountain top to the creek near your house, where you spot the salamanders scuttling.

Here are just two examples of Congress’s attacks on salamanders and our water:

Mountaintop Removal Pollution

Mountaintop removal mining is a destructive method of extracting coal that has had far-reaching environmental effects in a region of incredible biodiversity; it has already buried and polluted more than 2,000 miles of streams. According to the Environmental Protection Agency:

“The impact of mountaintop removal on nearby communities is devastating. Mining dries up an average of 100 wells a year and contaminates water in others…the purity and availability of drinking water are keen concerns.”

If it continues unabated, by the end of the decade it will cause a projected loss of more than 1.4 million acres of habitat that is home to fish and freshwater wildlife such as salamanders, bird species, and people.

Fire Salamander via Strocchi/Flickr

Despite the clear threat to water and wildlife, efforts in Congress are underway to block EPA oversight of mountaintop removal. This would shield the coal mining operations from EPA review of proposed mining permits, most of which don’t require assessment of potential impacts on endangered or threatened species.

By preventing the EPA from conducting permit reviews based on the best science for our own ecological safety, Congress is accelerating the destruction of Appalachia’s lands and waters and endangering the unique and extraordinary biodiversity of the region, from flying squirrels and peregrine falcons to cougars and salamanders.

Thwarting Protection Against the ‘Unacceptable’

The Clean Water Act (CWA) has faced its very own deluge of attacks this year, but this one in particular would strip the EPA of its ‘Veto Authority’ under section 404(c) of the CWA to prohibit or restrict certain pollution discharges that would have an “unacceptable adverse effect on our water, fish or wildlife. EPA has used this authority sparingly – only 13 times since the law was enacted in 1972. It is reserved for truly bad projects where the discharger cannot or will not curtail the impacts on our water resources.

This attack would force EPA to ignore the scientific evidence of the harms caused by destructive dumping proposals. The EPA’s 2011 veto of the Spruce Mine permit, one of the largest mountaintop removal coal mines in Appalachia, encouraged this amendment, but it would prevent the agency from blocking any project, not just mining, which would have unacceptable environmental impacts.

Sounds unacceptably dangerous to me.

Speak Up for Salamanders

Take ActionHelp protect salamanders and other wildlife by urging Congress to support programs that mitigate the consequences of water pollution on wildlife. Stop these sneaky attacks before our rainbow of salamanders vanishes for good.

Wildlife in the Crossfire – About this Series

This four-part blog series highlights wildlife caught in the crossfire of the federal budget battle raging in Congress and gives you the tools to fight back. Congress is in recess and members are back in their home districts. Now is the time to stand up for wildlife.

Fact: America’s investment in wildlife is not to blame for the budget problems we face today. Over the past 30 years, America’s investment in parks, wildlife, clean water and clean air has fallen from 1.7% to 0.6% of federal spending.