Monday, 26 January 2015

Rep. Ken Andrus (Idaho) opposes salamander bill, cites childhood aversion - Herp Digest

Idaho State Journal-Wednesday, January 21, 2015
By Dave Goins Idaho News Service | 5 comments
   BOISE — Memories of a childhood aversion to salamanders led Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, to oppose state legislation that would have made the Idaho giant salamander the state amphibian, Andrus said Monday.
    “When I grew up, when I was a young boy, in our swimming hole, there were salamanders, and we called them water dogs,” Andrus said, referring to experiences that he said occurred in Utah. “And I learned to despise them. To me, and to my fellow youth, they were ugly, they were slimy, and they were creepy.  And I’ve not gotten over that. And, so, to elevate them to a state symbol and status of being the state amphibian, I’m not there yet.”
    Andrus subsequently voted against House Bill 1 in the House State Affairs Committee, where the measure died on a 10-6 Monday morning vote.
    According to committee testimony from Boise 8th-grader Ilah Hickman, the salamander species that would have become the state amphibian in Idaho largely is found in the Gem State and in “just a small part of Montana.” Hickman began studying the Idaho giant salamander species as a fourth-grader at Boise’s White Pine Elementary School. During elementary and middle school, she has since made several efforts — with presentations at the Idaho Legislature — to try to make the indigenous Idaho giant salamander the state amphibian.
    But Andrus said that he and his friends in Utah quit using the place where they swam, “because we couldn’t swim around among the things we despised and they were so creepy to us.” While not the Idaho giant salamander, Andrus said that species was similar to what he had experienced during his boyhood.
    “This intriguing amphibian,” is how Hickman — shown during a committee presentation holding a container with an Idaho giant salamander in a 2014 photograph — described the species.
    Hickman also described the Idaho giant salamander as “secretive and slimy, indigenous, but not endangered.”
     “Several amazing amphibians live in Idaho, but the Idaho giant salamander is the best candidate to represent Idaho,” Hickman said. “Of the 15 amphibians that are native to Idaho, five of them are already designated as amphibians in 11 other states. And most of the remaining amphibians are frogs, toads, newts and salamanders that live in widespread areas beyond Idaho.”  
    Some experts on amphibians — known as herpetologists — testified in favor of the legislation. There was no opposing public testimony on the failed HB1.
    Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, a former student-teacher supervisor at Idaho State University, made the unsuccessful motion to move HB1 to the House floor with a do-pass recommendation.
    Bateman and others said that adding the Idaho giant salamander to Idaho’s list of state symbols — others include the Mountain Bluebird, Syringa flower, and Idaho Potato (state vegetable) — would generate academic interest in Idaho’s nature scene for many students.  
    “I would go into fourth-grade classes all over Southeastern Idaho, and I was astounded at the curiosity and the excitement these kids had toward state symbols,” Bateman said, referring to Idaho’s state horse, state fruit, and state vegetable symbols, respectively. “For example, in Rigby, there’s a school there that would actually bring a horse to school — an Appaloosa horse — and they’d have huckleberry jelly, and they’d learn all about potatoes. And it was just astounding the excitement this created in the minds of little children.”
    Bateman added: “And, that’s what it’s all about, it’s an education feature. It just stimulates curiosity and imagination.”
    Said Hickman: “The proposed state symbol could inspire students to learn more about science, animals, amphibians, and the great state of ours.”
    Andrus apologized to Hickman for his opposition.
    “Ilah, I’m sorry,” Andrus said. “And, I commend you for what you have done, and your due diligence for bringing this to our attention.”

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