United States Department of the Interior

Fish and Wildlife Service,

In Reply Refer To:
FWS/AES

November 18, 1996

Mr. Dan Pearson
Executive Director
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission
P.O. Box 13087
Austin, Texas 78711-3087

Dear Mr. Pearson,

I write to express my concern regarding the State of Texas' lack of progress in adopting certain water quality regulations needed to conserve the Barton Springs Salamander. Identical letters are also being sent to Andy Sansom, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and William Burnett, Texas Department of Transportation.

As you know, in August 1996, your agency and the Southwest Regional Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed a Conservation Agreement concerning the salamander, which had been proposed for listing as an endangered species by the Service in 1994. Shortly thereafter, the Service withdrew the proposed rule, stating that listing was no longer warranted because "the commitment by the State of Texas to fully implement the cooperative Agreement significantly reduces the threats to the species" (61 Fed. Reg. 46608; Sept, 4. 1996)

One of the primary reasons the Service determined that the Agreement would alleviate threats to the Barton Springs Salamander sufficient to justify withdrawing the proposed rule was a commitment by the state to adopt regulations it had previously proposed. These proposed regulations were discussed at length in both the Agreement and the withdrawal notice. In the withdrawal notice the Service expressed its expectation that proposed rules regarding Water Quality Protection Zones and the Edwards Aquifer would be adopted in October 1996 and noted that delay in adopting the rules could result in the Service's Withdrawing from the agreement and re-proposing the salamander for listing (61 Fed. Reg. at 46613). The Service also noted it would "closely monitor the implementation of the Agreement and, if the Agreement is not accomplishing its purpose, the Service may list the salamander on an emergency basis if appropriate and reimpose it for permanent listing" (Id. at 46616).

It is my understanding that only some of these proposed regulations have been adopted. In the meantime, a lawsuit has been filed, Save Our Springs Alliance v. Babbitt challenging the Service's decision to withdraw the proposed rule to list the Barton Springs Salamander. A copy of the complaint filed in this case is enclosed for your information.

The Service continues to believe that state regulation of water quality is the best means of protecting the salamander. If the threats to the salamander are not addressed by the state however, the Service has no choice but to act to protect this species. I would appreciate your providing me with your revised schedule for adopting the regulations required by the Conservation Agreement as soon as possible. If these regulations are not expected to, or in fact do not, go into effect within the very near futue, the Service will be forced to reconsider its decision to withdraw the proposal to list the salamander.

Sincerely,

John G. Rogers
Acting Director

Enclosure

cc.The Honorable George W. Bush, Jr.
Governor of Texas

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