UPDATE: On November 15, 2017, Senate Bill 658 passed in the Pennsylvania Senate and will now be taken up by the House. On December 2, 2017, CBF Student Leaders were featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for their inspiring efforts to save the hellbender and restore clean water across Pennsylvania streams!
CBF's Pennsylvania Student Leadership Council's (SLC) encounter with an unusually large, odd looking, brown salamander prompted questions that eventually led to the campaign to designate an official state amphibian. The salamander was Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis, commonly known as the Eastern hellbender.
Hellbenders are the largest salamander species in North America. They can be found in cold, clear, swift-running rivers and streams of the Susquehanna watershed. They prefer rocky streambeds with crevices, which they use for protection and for nesting sites. But the loss of forested buffers along these waterways is resulting in warmer waters and silted streambeds, degrading their habitat and decimating their numbers in streams where they were plentiful as recently as 1990.
The SLC students wondered why more people don't know about hellbenders and the problems they're facing. So they came up with a plan to designate the Eastern hellbender Pennsylvania's official state amphibian. To this end, they drafted a piece of legislation and are meeting with elected officials. They hope to get the bill passed by Pennsylvania's Senate and House and ultimately signed by Governor Tom Wolf.
Organizations supporting the hellbender bill include:
Aquashicola/Pohopco Watershed Conservancy
Catawissa Creek Restoration Association
Central Pennsylvania Conservancy
Chestnut Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Earth to Table Products
Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandon Mine Reclamation
Loyal Hanna Watershed Association
Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Pennsylvania Forestry Association
Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation
Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust
Tri-County Conewago Creek Associations
Thornbury Township Environmental Advisory Council
Twin and Walker Creek Watershed Conservancy
Valley Forge Chapter of Trout Unlimited
If your organization or business would like to join this growing list of supporters, please contact email@example.com.