What is the Real Purpose of the ESA (Endangered Species Act) in Arkansas and Missouri in Regard to the Hellbender Salamander?
(NOTE: we are waiting on an FOIA and will keep you updated about this topic.)
After a close reading of the final rule in the Federal Register (Vol. 76, No. 194/Thursday, October 6, 2011/Rules and Regulations) in regard to the Ozark Hellbender Salamander, definitive causes of the decline in population of this species is due to four major factors:
1) Construction of dams done in the 1940’s and 1950’s – Dam constructions (called impoundments), affect habitat in that free flowing streams become “still”, and along with other factors, can lead to extinction. Heavy rains which necessitate the releasing of water from the dams is one of the factors.
2) Disease (Chytridiomycosis) – The second cause, disease, comes from chytridiomysis caused by the pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). This is a fungus found worldwide which originated in Africa from a clawed frog which was used in the 1930’s and 1940’s for pregnancy testing. This fungus lives in aquatic systems in which it ‘swims’ through the water and reproduces itself. This fungus has infected the salamander in both Missouri and Arkansas, creating abnormalities . At the present time there is no cure.
3) Predation – This is mainly several species of fish which feed on the larval salamanders.
4) Collecting – The fourth cause, collecting and selling of the salamanders throughout the world, has been done in large quantities.
The remaining factors cited as “might be causes”, “could be causes”, “is postulated”, etc., (motorboats and jet boat traffic, inner-tube floating, agricultural land and livestock production, logging, gravel roads, off-road vehicles, horseback riding, water quality degradation, kayaking, rafters, boat ramps, and canoeing) are without definitive data. Even fishing is cited, but later in the report, it is stated “catching hellbenders while fishing is not a frequent occurrence and is not believed to be a significant threat to the species”.
What is the purpose of the ESA listing of these “possible” (obviously made up) causes?
When you have a salamander which has had its habitat destroyed by dams, has a non-curable disease spreading through the population, is preyed on by trout and other fish, and has been targeted by collectors for decades, what is the ESA solution? Restrict land and recreational usage of land belonging to the people who live or work within the range of the habitat of the salamander? Destroy the dams? Kill all the predator fish?
This can only be interpreted as a property ownership issue. Placing restrictions on land and recreational activities (which are NOT definitively cited as causations) is a cause of great concern for those of us who wish to retain our freedoms, especially the right of property ownership. Just how important is this salamander? Is it more important than our constitutional rights?
Supposedly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services which determined the endangered status of the salamander, published the proposed rule on September 8, 2010 and requested “all interested parties” submit comments by November 8, 2010. According to the report, they contacted “appropriate” Federal, State, and local agencies; scientific experts; and other interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposal. The report does not cite who these people are.
Also, newspaper notices which invited general comments supposedly were published in the West Plains Daily Quill (West Plains, MO: pop. 10, 866; circulation-9300); The Times Dispatch (Walnut Ridge, AR: pop.-4890; circulation 4800; pub. weekly); and The News-Leader (Springfield, MO: pop.-159,498; circulation-60,889). Contacts at all three newspapers say the notice was published only once in the Legal Notices section of their newspapers from September 17-22, 2010. Why was this not published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette? Why choose to have two-thirds of the notification in small town newspapers? It is obvious that the Service thought they could hide this from the people of Arkansas.