Teen pushes recognition for Idaho giant salamander
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Idaho lawmakers have rejected a grade school student's request. She wants a giant salamander to be named the state amphibian.
The House State Affairs Committee voted against 14-year-old Ilah Hickman's plan. It was her fifth attempt in as many years.
"I was kind of disappointed. But either way I'm going to come back next year and push it again," Hickman told The Spokesman-Review. "I'm going to keep pushing."
The Idaho giant salamander can grow to more than a foot long. Hickman told lawmakers that the salamander makes its home almost exclusively in Idaho. The girl noted it has skin markings that resemble a topographical map of Idaho's Bitterroot Mountains.
But lawmakers remained wary. Some believe that if the salamander is made the state symbol, it could lead to federal protections. Not all want that designation. An Idaho attorney general's opinion advised them on the issue. It said that approving the salamander as a state symbol wouldn't do anything in the way of encouraging federal protections.
Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, agreed. She pointed out that designating a state symbol had nothing to do with endangered species.
"We addressed that," Ward-Engelking said. "We got an opinion from the attorney general. It was very clear. I spoke with him personally. He said no way, no how was a state symbol going to impact that whatsoever."
Idaho fourth-grade classes study state symbols as part of Idaho history. A fourth-grade teacher backed the bill as well.
But Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, voted against the salamander. He recalled being repulsed by them as a boy.
"They were ugly. They were slimy. And they were creepy," he said. "And I've not gotten over that. So to elevate them to the status of being the state amphibian, I'm not there yet."
Critical thinking challenge: Why is the giant salamander referred to in this story called the "Idaho" giant salamader?