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[ The New PA State Amphibian ]

Senate Passes Bill To Designate Hellbenders As PA’s State Amphibian And Symbol Of The Importance Of Clean Water

The Senate Wednesday overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 658 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) 47 to 2 to designate the Eastern hellbender as Pennsylvania’s official state amphibian as a symbol of the importance of clean water in the Commonwealth.

Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and a member of the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission, is prime sponsor of the bill.

“They are a natural barometer of water quality and they live where the water is clean,” Sen. Yaw said, recalling days as a youngster catching hellbenders in the local creek. “If they are surviving in the streams in this area, that is a good sign for the water quality. Here is nature’s own testing kit for good water quality.”

Much of what remains of a depleted hellbender population in Pennsylvania can be found in waters within the Senator’s district, which includes Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, part of Susquehanna and Union counties.

The campaign on behalf of North America’s largest salamander is the brainchild of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Student Leadership Council. The students have studied the hellbender extensively, wrote the first draft of Senate Bill 658, and are working for its passage.

“It’s about all species that rely on clean water, which essentially encompasses all wildlife in Pennsylvania, including us,” SLC President Anna Pauletta said of the campaign. “Being able to speak up for something that doesn’t necessarily have a voice and making impact on their survivorship through legislation.” She is a senior at Cumberland Valley High School.

Read the full story from PA Environment Digest here.

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