(HARRISBURG, PA)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) in Pennsylvania applauds the state Senate’s overwhelming passage of Senate Bill 9 today, which would designate the Eastern Hellbender as Pennsylvania’s official state amphibian.
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.
“Passing Senate Bill 9 is a good indicator that people are becoming more aware of how important clean water is, especially in our legislature,” said Anna Pauletta, past president of CBF’s Student Leadership Council (SLC) in Pennsylvania and current sophomore at Penn State University. “It’s a very important step for promoting clean water in the state of Pennsylvania, in addition to supporting youth leadership and student involvement in our House and Senate.”
SLC students studied hellbenders extensively and wrote the first draft of a bill similar to SB 9 that passed the Senate last session, but languished in the State House.
With the passage of SB 9, focus on efforts to designate the hellbender as Pennsylvania’s official state amphibian now shifts to the State House.
For more information about the campaign for the Eastern hellbender, go to www.cbf.org/hellbender.