Teen pushes recognition for Idaho giant salamander
Some Idaho lawmakers who were worried that special recognition of the Idaho giant salamander could lead to federal protections have rejected a grade school student's request that it 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 to persuade lawmakers that the salamander made a good choice for state amphibian.
"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, until it either passes or I can't get hearings anymore."
An Idaho attorney general's opinion advised lawmakers that approving the salamander as a state symbol wouldn't do anything in the way of encouraging federal protections, but lawmakers remained wary.
Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, 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."
Frank Lundberg, a herpetologist, testified in support of the bill and was disappointed after it failed.
Idaho fourth-grade classes study state symbols as part of Idaho history, and a fourth-grade teacher backed the bill as well.
But Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, voted against the salamander after recalling being repulsed by them as a young 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."
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, and noted it has skin markings that resemble a topographical map of Idaho's Bitterroot Mountains.
Critical thinking challenge: Why is the giant salamander referred to in this story called the "Idaho" giant salamader?