Is Ohio Set to Destroy Eastern Hellbender Salamander Again?
– The GOOD
An unlikely partnership exists between Marion Correctional Facility’s Reptile Program and Toledo’s Zoo’s 23rd year veteran and herpetology curator and senior leadership team member Andrew Odum.
The Toledo Zoo allowed Marion Correctional Facility to care for the younger hellbender salamanders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) to boost space and increase population numbers for later release into the wild. Phases for release are jointly funded by: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants, Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Diversity Program donations, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Conservation Fund and the Toledo Zoo.
Hellbender’s are the largest amphibian in Ohio. This totally aquatic salamander can occasionally attain a length of 25 inches. In spite of its formidable appearance, the hellbender is quite harmless.
This salamander is listed as endangered by the Division of Wildlife. Their porous and permeable skin leaves the salamander vulnerable the smallest sensitive changes to the environment.
Eastern hellbender salamanders are bellwethers of the natural world and prefer clean waters and clean environment to dirtier streams. Hellbender disappearances in many states placed the animal on Endangered species lists.
– The BAD
Problems hellbenders encounter are: excessive dirt, environmental changes, health diseases, people, closing off streams, pest related deaths, predation and abduction.
’06 – ’08 surveys by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and later the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) found large percentages of the salamander population decreased from stable levels by 80 percent in the 1980s.
Some fear the next largest obstacle for the porous skinned amphibian is the pollution run-off from hydraulic gas fracturing sites across the Utica & Marcellus-Shale area right smack in the middle of the hellbender’s habitat.
Also known as Fracking, the chemicals used in the process to extract natural gas creates undisclosed to the public, millions of gallons of toxic waste effluence held in sequestration ponds near rivers that find their ways into streams and pollute the environment and drinking sources of healthy habitats like the hellbender salamander.
All the chemicals in fracking are kept confidential by material safety data sheets (MSDS) as trade secrets with ODNR in case of a spill. All recorded data given to toxic release inventory (TRI) to the Environmental pollution agency are undisclosed under the grandfathering clause of the Clean Water Act passed in 2005.
– The UGLY
Then Dick Cheney former vice-president of the United States and former oil company president of Halliburton exempted Oil and Gas Companies from disclosure using the “Halliburton Loophole” in the Clean Water Act.
SEC. 322. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING.
Paragraph (1) of section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended to read as follows:
‘‘(1) UNDERGROUND INJECTION.—The term ‘underground injection’—
‘‘(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and
‘‘(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and
‘‘(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.’’
This leaves the EPAs hands tied and prevents the EPA from investigations of these operations involved with fracking. What does this mean for the hellbender salamanders?
Well as the natural bellwether warning system for the stability of Ohio’s ecosystem, wildlife experts wouldn’t be surprised to see the remaining ones disappear too. Perhaps there should be an environmental impact statement based on the risk to the endangered hellbender, but with the Obama Administration and EPA keeping their mouths shut until the salamanders die off; they are hypocrites for funding a conceivable project failure in this instance.
Note: At the time this was published, the Ohio Department of Wildlife Studies could not be examined, nor any statements by Andrew Odum about the breeding program and how the hydraulic fracturing affects the ecosystem habitats of the eastern hellbender
ODNR Division of Wildlife – A to Z Species Guide – Hellbender
Ohio working to re-establish endangered amphibian, eastern hellbender salamander
State of Ohio and partners raising, releasing endangered hellbenders into Ohio streams
What is the “Haliburton Loophole?”
WORLDS BIG SALAMANDER-hellbender with nick