House Passes Bill Designating Eastern Hellbender PA’s Official State Amphibian, Clean Water Ambassador, Now Goes To Governor!
On April 16, Senate Bill 9 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) designating the Eastern Hellbender as the state amphibian and clean water ambassador (sponsor summary) was passed by the House without amendment by a vote of 191 to 6.
The bill now goes to the Governor for his action.
“The passing of this bill is sure to allow hellbenders to breathe easier in the near future and give them a better chance of survival - not to mention a better chance for a clean water legacy in Pennsylvania,” said Emma Stone, President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) Student Leadership Council (SLC) in Pennsylvania. “My fellow student leaders and I thank our representatives for their support of the hellbender bill. We are one step closer to cleaner water because of it.”
High School students with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Student Leadership Council have been working for the last 4 years on legislation to make this designation.
“Because the Eastern Hellbender exemplifies what is good about Pennsylvania’s waterways, it is the perfect selection to become the official State Amphibian,” said Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), prime sponsor of the bill “It is an excellent natural indicator of water quality, so, in effect, if you have hellbenders in your water the water quality most likely is very good. The hellbender will be a visible symbol of Pennsylvania’s commitment to clean water.”
Peter Petokas, Ph.D., Amphibian Conservation Biologist at Lycoming College and faculty member of the College’s Clean Water Institute , applauded the action. “Passage of Senate Bill 9 takes the Eastern Hellbender one step closer to the status of official amphibian of the State of Pennsylvania, a designation that it uniquely deserves and which will help promote conservation programs that protect and sustain the unique amphibian resources of the Commonwealth.”
“Even in times of budget crisis and pensions and everything else impacting Pennsylvania, this is something that showed the student sponsors of the bill that their elected officials do, indeed, listen to them. They had a great idea and I was privileged to present their idea to the Senate on their behalf,” Sen. Yaw added.
Hellbenders are North America’s largest salamander and survive where there is cold, clear, swift-running water. Growing to over two feet in length and weighing more than four pounds, they breathe oxygen from the water through their skin.
A lack of streamside trees along Commonwealth waterways allows waters to warm, polluted runoff to enter rivers and streams, and silt to build up in streambeds. As a result, habitat for hellbenders has been degraded and hellbender numbers have been decimated in Pennsylvania streams where they were plentiful as recently as 1990.
More information about the campaign for the Eastern Hellbender, go to CBF’s Hellbender webpage.
[Posted: April 16, 2019]
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