Pennsylvania’s Fight Over the Eastern Hellbender

by Matthew White

Last year Pennsylvania Senator Yaw of Williamsport advocated for the instatement of the eastern hellbender salamander as the state amphibian for Pennsylvania. This bill easily passed through senate, but has been contested in the house. The eastern hellbender is an evasive species to PA so some believe that it is not fit for the job of state amphibian. The eastern hellbender is a freshwater salamander that is very sensitive to the purity of the water it lives in. Some states have already put this salamander on their endangered species list because they have been dying due to unclean waterways. The main reason for the advocacy of this salamander is to cause awareness of the pollution in Pennsylvania’s waterways. Although being evasive, this amphibian has been found all over western PA waterway, but that has been cut in half because of pollution.


7 thoughts on “Pennsylvania’s Fight Over the Eastern Hellbender

  1. Even though this is a somewhat minor issue in todays political agenda, I think that it is still important. Having a species as an official species of the state gives the species attention and publicity. The eastern hellbender salamander is more than just an amphibian when it comes to politics. This amphibian represents a species that is endangered due to unclean water which represents two topics in itself. It brings attention to the endangered species itself and other species on the endangered list but also brings attention to the fact that to keep the species alive we need clean waterways. Using this species to represent more than just the state amphibian is a smart idea for Pennsylvania.

  2. I think this the biggest issue on the PA agenda at the moment. Making the hellbender the state salamander would force the DEP to protect water habitats in which it lives. With the clean water supply in PA under constant threat the hellbender would not only be saved from extinction but may also save our precious water supply. Anyone who is not talking about this issue is basically saying that they want PA to have unclean water.

  3. I both disagree and agree with my classmates above. I believe that this issue of clean water is not taken seriously enough by mostly anybody. With that being said I think that is the biggest issue PA needs to focus on. Making the Hellbender the state salamander was a great starting course of action for PA. Doing this will gravitate more people towards the issue of clean water. Clean water needs to be a main focus for PA and their People. This salamander represents more than just an animal. By making the Hellbender their salamander it shows the people of PA how polluted our water really is. This is due to these salamanders being an endangered species because of our water pollution. If Pennsylvania can realize this from the Hellbender, we can hopefully start cutting down on our pollution before ultimately it’s too late.

  4. Being on the team to help advocate for the Hellbender, I see a special interest in this topic. I think that the attempt to bring the Hellbender into the light of PA legislation is less focused on bringing the awareness of the species to light and more on bringing the awareness of the water pollution of PA into the focus of legislators. With the depletion of the population, the amphibian can be used as a ‘bulldozer’ to push forward the cuts and regulations of the state and the limits that they were putting on the chopping block. I think this also shows the pushback of the civilians of the state and resilience of the people to support green legislation as well as the direct effect legislation has on the people in their back yards.

  5. The whole point behind having a state amphibian is that it is supposed to be representative of the state. I personally favor the Hellbender over the Wherle, however, it is not representative of PA.

    Aside from that, if the Hellbender did win, I think it would be a step in the right direction for protecting our waterways. We could use the Hellbender to motive and educate people about how pollution effects difference species around us. I think that Yaw’s statement essentially summarizes the entire argument for the Hellbender:
    “Because the Eastern hellbender exemplifies what is good about Pennsylvania’s waterways, it is the perfect selection to become the official state amphibian,”
    “It is an excellent natural indicator of water quality, so, in effect, if you have hellbenders in your water the water quality most likely is very good.”

    I think PA should find another amphibian (if there is one) that comes with similar qualities of the Hellbender and is a native to the state. If this is not possible though, I’m all for the Hellbender.

  6. Going off my fellow classmates from above, even though it is a state issue and that solving the issue could potentially lead into helpful causes. I have to input that one salamander can’t compare to the other endangered species that we almost eradicated from humans tampering with the environment. I do realize that the state legislation isn’t going to put much effort towards this but there could be other pre-cautionary actions like reducing the amount of thrown away plastic, reducing carbon emissions as a whole, and establishing/refurbishing forests that were destroyed in previous years. Yes, cleaning up these water ways would be a step in the right direction, and could restore a lot of other species as well. The reason this is getting so much media attention is that it’s Pennsylvania’s state amphibian. This salamander has a huge label on it so making this an endangered species is already embarrassing enough for the state to have to worry about it. I believe the state should forge a natural reservation for certain habitats like the hellbender or any other animal that has a reduced population

  7. Firstly,Matthew I wanted to applaud you on writing about a topic that is somewhat comedic however raises very important points.
    As many agreed above, the issue of clean water is one that should be addressed. It is interesting to note how issues that seem as thought they should be taken seriously are often not and this is predominantly with environmental policies. I do also feel that it should not take a discussion over selecting a state salamander to make this water issue a headlining topic.

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