The following material was adapted for internet access by the Alabama Forest Owners' Association. AFOA received an ASCII file copy of the transcript from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on July 2, 1998. The first three, the last, and every tenth page number of the original transcript were left in place to help you find your place when reading. Italics were added by AFOA.
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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
WILKINSON & ASSOCIATES
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MEMBERS OF THE DEPARTMENT IN ATTENDANCE AND SPEAKING:
Mr. John H. Harrington, Assistant Regional Solicitor, U.S.Department of the Interior
Ms. Cary Norquist, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mr. Bob Bowker, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE SPEAKING, IN ORDER OF PRESENTATION:
Mr. Harold Mikell
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P R O C E E D I N G S
MR. HARRINGTON: This hearing regarding the flatwoods salamander shall come to order. By my watch it's seven minutes after 7:00 Eastern Daylight Time, April 15, 1998.
My name is John Harrington. I will serve this evening as the hearing examiner. I am an attorney with the United States Department of the Interior, and I have been designated by the Department to serve here tonight.
Also here are several officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To my left is Cary Norquist, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
We have Robert Bowker, who is the Field Supervisor at Jackson, Mississippi.
In the audience I believe is Gail Carmody. Gail, could you stand up, please. Gail is the Field Supervisor at the Panama City, Florida Field Office.
Roaming around here and getting chairs for people is Paul Hartfeld, a biologist in the Jackson, Mississippi office.
And manning the desk out front are Hildreth Cooper from Panama City and Stephanie Barrett from Jacksonville, Florida.
The purpose of the hearing tonight is twofold. First, the Fish and Wildlife Service will provide you with information concerning the flatwoods salamander, and the listing procedures that it has followed to date.
And second, the hearing will provide the public with the opportunity to make its comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service concerning this proposed listing.
You will notice the presence of a court reporter up here on the front row. Everything that is being said tonight will be transcribed verbatim, and the transcript of this proceeding will form a part of the administrative record.
The administrative record will also consist of the materials concerning the flatwoods salamander that the Fish and Wildlife Service has produced and gathered, also any written comments that it has received regarding the proposed listing as a threatened species.
There is no particular weight given to an oral comment versus a written comment. Both types have equal weight. And so we would invite everyone, whether you make an oral comment tonight or not, if you would wish to prepare written comments and provide them to the Fish and Wildlife Service, you are invited to do so.
The administrative record will close on the 1st of June 1998. After that date the Fish and Wildlife Service will make a decision whether to list the flatwoods salamander as a threatened species or not to list it.
At this time then I would like to ask Ms. Cary Norquist to provide you with some information.
MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE: Will we get transcripts of this?
MR. HARRINGTON: You will get a transcript. All you have to do is send a request in writing to the Fish and Wildlife Service, and under the law of the Freedom of Information Act, they are required to provide it to you.
STAFF MEMBER: Or they can make arrangements with the stenographer.
MR. HARRINGTON: That's correct. Ms. Norquist.
MS. NORQUIST: Good evening. I am pleased to see all the interest in the Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to list the flatwoods salamander.
The Jackson, Mississippi office of the Fish and Wildlife Service is one of several field offices responsible for endangered and threatened species listings and (inaudible).
MS. NORQUIST: Our mandate under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and its amendments is to implement a program to conserve endangered and threatened species and their habitat.
The first step in the process of ensuring the conservation of species is to evaluate and propose species whose status appears to warrant their need for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Tonight we are concerned with the status of the flatwoods salamander, a species which occurs in isolated populations scattered across lower coastal plains in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. It is historically known from Alabama, but has not been observed in that state in over 15 years.
There is more specific distributional information in the proposal and also at the registration desk.
The flatwoods salamander occurs in pine flatwoods under moist, open longleaf, slash pine forests that have a well-developed ground cover or grassing.
Appropriate habitat was historically maintained by naturally occurring fauna. Flatwoods salamanders are only found in pine flatwoods which also have appropriate temporary ponds which the salamander uses for breeding.
These breeding ponds average about three acres in size, are isolated from other water bodies and dry completely on a seasonal basis. They are moist-like in appearance and usually have pond cypress, flat gum or slash pine growing in or around them.
Adult and subadult flatwoods salamanders live in the underground burrows and the pond flatwoods.
Adult salamanders move to the temporary ponds for breeding during the rainy weather from October to December.
Species that may need protection under the Act are brought to the Service's attention in a number of ways, such as the scientific literature, biologists' recommendations or as a petition by interested parties.
The flatwoods salamander is a species which the Service has been aware of and gathered information on for a number of years. However, our focus on this species' eligibility for listing at this time was prompted by the receipt of a petition listing the species.
Once a species is identified for consideration for protection under the Act, a status review is initiated. Status reviews involve gathering and analyzing all available information on the species including its taxonomy, biology, distribution and threat to the species and its habitat.
Surveys have been conducted for the flatwoods salamander throughout appropriate habitat in the southeast over the past seven years in order to equitably assess its rarity and the threat.
Under Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act, a species may be determined to be endangered or threatened due to one or more of the following five factors: present or threatened destruction, modification or curtailment of its habitat or range; overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes; disease or predation; inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms and other natural or man-made factors affecting its continued existence.
Extensive surveys of the flatwoods salamander over the last seven years have reconfirmed only 12 percent of a historical record for this species. Currently we know of approximately 50 populations scattered across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
The major threat to the flatwoods salamander is loss of both its pond flatwoods terrestrial habitat and seasonal breeding pond habitat.
Pond flatwoods habitat has been reduced to less than 20 percent of its historical extent. Large acreages of pond flatwoods have been eliminated through land use conversion, primarily urban development and conversion to agriculture and intensely managed pine plantations.
Remaining pond flatwood areas are fragmented and continue to decline in amount and quality from land conversion.
The wetland breeding sites have also been degraded or destroyed by draining, filling and by agriculture, urban development and certain silvicultural practices.
Suppression of naturally occurring ponds and the lack of ponds as a management tool in the salamander's habitat has significantly contributed to the degradation of the pond flatwoods and the breeding pond.
Based on an analysis of all available scientific evidence, some of which are briefly touched on, the Service proposed the flatwoods salamander for listing as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The proposed rule to list the flatwoods salamander as a threatened species was published on December 16, 1997 in the Federal Register.
Direct notification of the proposal was made to
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142 interested parties, including individuals, industry and the Agency.
Legal notices were also published in 12 newspapers within the range of the salamander.
Thus far we have received 55 comments, 20 of these 55 comments came from students of a sixth grade class in South Carolina. Of the remaining 35 comments, 21 expressed support for the proposal, 11 requested an extension of the comment period, a public hearing or clarification on several issues. And three questioned our analysis of certain data. One of these stated the listing was premature.
The Service's final determination of whether or not to add this species to the list of endangered and threatened species is not based on numbers or comments pro or con. The Service will use the best available information and evaluate the flatwoods salamander's status with regard to the five listing factors.
We understand that there are a lot of questions and concerns regarding this listing, particularly concerning timber management on private land.
We have attempted to address many of these issues which have been brought to our attention during the comment period through the development of a question and answer sheet. And again, this material is at the registration desk. I encourage you to get one and read over it.
I am not going to repeat all of what is on this sheet; however, because of this species listing, we feel -- excuse me -- however, because of this species' rarity, we feel that the listing of the flatwoods salamander will affect relatively few landowners.
The Service recognizes that timber management is a land use activity that has the greatest compatibility of the continued existence of this species. Timber management techniques that duplicate the natural ecological processes of the historical pond flatwoods ecosystem, such as burning and selected timber harvests would benefit flatwoods salamander population.
Silvicultural management practices can be planned and conducted to reduce or possibly eliminate the potential for take of the flatwoods salamander.
Take means to harass, harm, kill, trap or collect a listed animal, and is prohibited for animals listed under the Act.
The definition of take includes land use activities that may result in death or harm to the species.
There is a process for authorizing incidental take of a listed species when the take occurs incidental to an otherwise lawful activity such as land conversion or timber harvest.
Should this species become listed, the Service will work with landowners to develop management formats which provide protection for the flatwoods salamander and also accommodate the landowner's needs.
The Fish and Wildlife Service intends that any final action resulting from this proposal be as accurate and as effective as possible. We are here tonight to hear comments or suggestions from the public, governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry and any other interested party concerning this proposed ruling.
We are particularly interested in information concerning threats to the species and its habitat, locations of additional population, additional information on distribution and population size, current or planned activities in the subject area and possible impacts on the species.
We are interested in hearing your comments on the Service's proposal to list the flatwoods salamander, and we now allow you that opportunity. Thank you for your attention.
MR. HARRINGTON: Now we come to the public comment stage of the proceedings tonight. Let me go very quickly through the procedure that we will follow.
The protocol that the Department of the Interior follows in these kinds of public hearings is to provide the first opportunity to speak to representatives of governmental -- officials and governmental agencies. Then for everyone else I will shuffle the cards up and pull them out at random.
If anyone has a great distance to go tonight and needs to make their comment early and hit the road, I will be more than willing to accommodate those needs if you would let me know that.
So, if there's anybody that needs to get out of here quick, if you would find one of the Fish and Wildlife Service people, they can just slip me a note and I will take care of that.
The first person that we have to make a comment tonight is Mr. Harold Mikell, representing Congressman Allen Boyd.
When you come to the podium, if you would please identify yourself and your affiliation, if any, so that the court reporter can get that information down. I would appreciate it. Thank you.
MR. MIKELL: Thank you, sir. I am Harold Mikell. That's spelled M-i-k-e-l-l. I am here tonight representing Congressman Allen Boyd. He has asked that I read a very brief statement into the record for tonight.
First, I want to thank you for holding this hearing to afford our citizens an opportunity to express themselves on this matter.
I am sure there are those who are well qualified to speak on the technical and scientific aspects of this proposal. My comments involve mainly the social and economic concerns of thousands of small nonindustrial forest landowners who can be seriously affected by your decision.
These are the people who many times are not well represented in these hearings. They have neither the time, finances nor procedural background or knowledge of the process to be actively involved.
I certainly hope there are some in attendance tonight to make their concerns known. For these reasons I urge you to proceed very deliberately as you consider your action on this proposal.
Many of these landowners, and in some cases their ancestors, have spent their lives managing and caring for their forest land and certainly want to see it continue to be productive and make its contribution to the well-being of our environment.
I might also point out that in total these small landowners own the majority of the forest land, and their active support and participation is necessary for these activities to be successful.
Thank you again for this opportunity to comment, and I urge you to consider all the comments presented here in making your decision. Thank you very much.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Mikell. Any written statements that we receive this evening will be made a part of the transcript and, therefore, a part of the administrative record of this listing package.
Our next speaker will be W. V. McConnell.
MR. McCONNELL: Thank you for allowing us to speak this evening. We welcome you to Tallahassee.
My name is W. V. McConnell. I live at 1023 San Luis Road here in Tallahassee. I am here representing the Liberty County School District and the Liberty County Board of County Commissioners.
I have been working with them on another endangered species problem, the red-cockaded woodpecker. So, I have a feel for some of the problems, some of the difficulties which endangered species management may cause.
I will try to be as brief as possible, and I want to emphasize three points.
First, you are taking an action, an action which will have perhaps very grave consequences. I see no evidence in the Federal Register notification that you have made any attempt to quantify or identify these consequences, especially the economic and social consequences.
There is considerable discussion of how this will benefit the salamander, but there is no discussion of what impact it will have on people, on children, on workers and on their communities.
Secondly, I see no evidence that you have considered the alternatives.
As an example, and I'm not an expert on salamanders, the standard is set of one mile. Now, is this the maximum that the salamander can travel or can he, perhaps, accomplish 90 percent of what he does, wishes to do while he's out there in one-half mile, in which case you can reduce the affected area from 2,000 acres to 500 acres with substantial --
MR. HARRINGTON: Excuse me, will someone check on that, there may be -- it may be one of those fire alarms where the battery is running low or something.
I'm sorry, Mr. McConnell.
MR. McCONNELL: So, secondly, let us consider some alternatives. I feel perhaps you have researched evidence, but identifying and quantifying and considering alternatives will certainly provide an opportunity to ease some of the impacts which I anticipate will be forthcoming from this listing and regulation.
And third, and perhaps the most interesting, is consider the law. We have talked about considering the consequences. We have talked about considering the alternatives. I think perhaps the Fish and Wildlife Service may do well to consider more carefully the nature of the law and the fact that as we are aware environmental law is in the process of evolution.
There are many, many cases now in the courts and, as you know, Congress is considering reauthorization of the Act.
I would like to quote from perhaps one of the most significant judicial rulings made recently, which is the Bennett versus Speers opinion by the United States Supreme Court regarding endangered species. It deals with the uses of economic and scientific and commercial data.
"The obvious purpose of the requirement that each agency use the best scientific and commercial data available is to ensure that the ESA" -- that's the Endangered Species Act -- "not be implemented haphazardly on the basis of speculation or surmise. While this no doubt serves to advance the ESA's overall goal of species preservation, we think it readily apparent that another objective, if not indeed the primary one, is to avoid needless economic dislocation, produced by agency officials zealously, unintelligently pursuing their environmental objectives."
This is the Supreme Court's opinion, it's not W. V. McConnell.
The economic consequences are an explicit concern, as evidence by 1533(a), which provides exemptions from 1536(a)(2), no jeopardy mandate where there are no reasonable and prudent alternatives.
We believe that the best scientific and commercial data provision is similarly intended, at least in part, to prevent uneconomic or erroneous jeopardy determinations, so that we do have an evolutionary law. We have one that has recently been determined that those affected can indeed sue under the Endangered Species Act, as you know.
So, we are in a state of change. I would urge that you do recognize the fact that this is a change that is occurring. And let me once again restate the three principles which I feel should be more deeply considered in your judgment.
First of all, consider the consequences, economic and social, and Mr. Mikell referred to that. Consider the alternatives. Develop alternatives. Consider them and where possible balancing them against economic and social needs.
Choose an alternative which is less -- which has less impact. And, third, consider the law.
Thank you for allowing me to speak this evening.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mr. McConnell.
Our next speaker is Mr. Claude Crapps.
MR. CRAPPS: Thank you, Mr. Harrington. My name is Claude Crapps, III, and I'm a small, nonindustrial landowner from Suwannee County. I have several concerns on the proposal to list the flatwoods salamander as a threatened species.
One, as with many landowners in our area, we practice even age management of our forest stands. After a stand is harvested, we use herbicides to site prepare the land or mechanical means, both of which I understand would be prohibited to protect the habitat of the salamander.
Two, to obtain intermediate income from our stands, we sell pine straw. We have started fertilizing the stands to increase the straw production and replace nutrients lost in the raking of the straw.
I understand fertilization of the trees would be
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detrimental to the habitat of the salamander. I don't see anything about the raking of the pine straw.
Three, from what I've read, you're proposing to declare a one-mile radius around a breeding site as a protected area. Since our land is scattered over the county, this would encompass my neighbor's farm. Who would be responsible for maintaining the habitat?
Four, if I did not have the flatwoods salamander on my land, and I hope I don't, who would make the survey to confirm that I did not have the salamander, and who would pay for this survey?
In closing I would like to encourage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to come up with a proposal to relocate the flatwoods salamander to the national forest, if the private landowner should request, and not impose any additional regulations on the landowner.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, sir.
Our next speaker is Marilee Gerrell Butler.
MS. BUTLER: May I wait until later? Would that be all right?
MR. HARRINGTON: You certainly may.
Then Mr. James Barrett.
MR. BARRETT: I would like to provide a written statement at a later time.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Barrett.
Mr. Johnny Brown.
MR. BROWN: My name is Johnny Brown. I live in Perry, Florida. While I work for a company, I'm here for myself as an individual landowner.
You said a while ago you was glad that we had all this interest in being here. I maintain that the reason we are here is we don't trust you. We are here out of fear, not out of interest. We don't trust you, not one bit.
We have already seen what you do, how you operate. You talk about taking when you refer to this salamander, but you don't use the same language when you are talking about taking somebody's land away from them. Any agency that can do that needs to be feared.
You talk about burning. The Division of Forestry might have something to say about that. You talk about harvesting and thinning, how do you do that without running equipment out there? You might mash one of your little buddies.
This whole thing is ridiculous as to why you even should be here. Why should a little five-inch lizard take up 2,000 acres of land of somebody's that they've been making a living on and counting on for the future, and in some instances it might have been in the family for years, three or four generations, and yet you come along and find a suspected breeding ground somewhere within a mile radius and you just put him out of business and do not compensate him at all.
So, you are to be feared. Thank you.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Brown.
Mr. John Wethington.
MR. WETHINGTON: I am John Wethington, W-e-t-h-i-n-g-t-o-n, 109 Northwest 22nd Drive, Gainesville, Florida.
I am here representing myself as a small landowner. Frankly, your scheme would put me out of business. It's that simple because my landholdings are smaller than the ones you have talked about. Therefore, what should I do with them? Are you going to pay me for them?
My family has owned this land since 1820, and my son is going to own it very shortly.
So as far as me making any money out of it, I can't. I have a scheme coming up at the end of my presentation which I will present to you.
First, who is responsible for seeing that the salamander is there? Do I have to go out and hire a biologist? I'm trained in physics, not biology, so I don't know the salamander if I see him, or are you going to pay for it? I'm sure you are not.
In my opinion you are working hard to convert the private landowner into an endangered species. Soon you will have enough of us to do that. It will follow very quickly.
I think the best thing I can do is convert my land into a shopping center and then it won't be any problem. Thank you.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you.
And now Mr. Mac Baughman.
MR. BAUGHMAN: My name is Mac Baughman. That's B-a-u-g-h-m-a-n. I am with Westvaco Corporation in Summerville, South Carolina.
I would like to make comments on five things mentioned in the proposed listing.
First, the proposed listing of the flatwoods salamander as a threatened species suggests that the flatwoods salamander populations have declined. While most surveys have focused on known sites, there has been no comprehensive range-wide surveys for this species of salamander.
Limited data, except for seasonal movement patterns, appear in the published literature for the flatwoods salamanders on normal population trends.
Many pond breeding amphibians with terrestrial adults have major fluxes in perceived population abundance, based on a 12-year study in South Carolina (Pechmann, et al., 1991).
A study in Florida for the flatwoods salamander at 24 ponds from 1991 to 1995 found that variability in annual breeding ranged from 12 to 96 percent (Palis, 1977).
These are within the limits of detection surveys at historical sites. Such population trends seem to be the response of natural variability in precipitation, hydrologic factors and in association with other species in the habitat.
Another major challenge in sampling for flatwoods salamanders is their fossorial or cryptic nature. Thus, the extrapolation of the available data for estimating range-wide population size and trends is limited.
The second point I would like to make is the technical basis for describing the home range of the flatwoods salamander is unclear. Ashton in 1992 is cited as the source; however, he presents no data or information on methods used to support his work.
There is little technical basis -- therefore, there is little technical basis for the movement of more than 1700 meters as cited in Ashton, and it is very uncertain. Furthermore, these movements far exceed movements recorded for any other Ambystomatidae salamander in the southeastern United States.
Semlitsch in 1981 in South Carolina reported movements between 81 meters and 261 meters for Ambystoma talpoideum.
Douglas and Monroe in 1981 in Kentucky reported movement of 250 meters for the Ambystoma jeffersonianum and movements between six meters and 220 for Ambystoma maculatum salamanders.
Semlitsch in 1983 in South Carolina reported movements of 162 meters for the tigrinum salamanders.
G. C. Muckenfuss' personal observations in 1989 found movements between zero and 40 meters for the spotted salamander and for the marbled salamander in South Carolina.
I personally have observed movements between zero and 40 meters for the spotted salamander and zero to 60 for the marbled salamander, and movements between zero and 20 for the A. mabeei salamander in South Carolina.
The third point I would like to address is the proposed rule suggests refugia are needed between the breeding ponds and the upland home range. However, there is no scientific basis or literature cited to support this assumption.
The fourth point I would like to make is the relationship of amphibians with herbicides is poorly understood. A recently published bibliography of herbicide and wildlife relationships identified only one field study examining herbicide and amphibian relationships.
Cole, et al., 1995, found that glyphosate applications had no impact on two salamander species.
Means in 1996 reported that fire suppression has been considered the primary reason for the degradation of the remaining habitat of the flatwoods salamander.
As cited in the proposed rule, current forest management is moving away from burning as a management tool due to liability considerations.
Furthermore, as opportunities to prescribe burns decline, herbicides may offer unique possibilities to manipulate the habitat to benefit the flatwoods salamander.
The fifth point I would like to mention is the proposed rule suggests that clear-cutting appears to be a threat to the flatwoods salamander.
Habitat associations of terrestrial amphibians and reptiles is poorly known. Historical information on some species exists, but there is relatively little quantitative information on habitat associations.
Most of the information available is based primarily on the family Plethodontidae. The Plethodontidaes may be more sensitive to changes of microhabitat and microclimate. deMaynadier and Hunter in 1995 found that Phethodontids generally experience greater population declines than other amphibian groups in clear-cut stands.
Some species of salamanders can remain inactive in underground retreats for long periods of time (Grizzell, 1948 and Feder, 1983). In these cases the chances of capturing these animals is reduced.
Means, et al., 1996, presents data from one of the few studies monitoring the relative abundance of flatwoods salamander population over time. They hypothesize that modern silvicultural practice was the ultimate cause for the decline. Their hypothesis cannot be proven right nor wrong based on the scientific evidence unless a comparison is made in a nearby undisturbed habitat.
They would also have had to use comparison of the same techniques to collect information on the natural annual variability in the breeding migrations of the species.
Pough in 1987 found that Plethodon cinereus are capable of repopulating areas following clear-cuts.
Enge and Marion in 1986 reported that clear-cutting a flatwoods community in Florida lowered the amphibian population size but did not affect species richness. They also reported that populations in their study areas recovered by the third year after the habitat disturbance.
I have personally observed in South Carolina relatively high numbers of Ambystomatidae salamanders in intensively managed pine plantations.
Bennett in 1980 found that populations in slash pine, loblolly pine and mixed hardwood stands in South Carolina did not appreciably differ from one another in the number of species or in the measures of species diversity.
Bennett also reported that managed pine habitats harbor larger numbers of amphibian species and individuals than expected.
Diller and Wallace in 1994 stated that finding salamanders in these young habitats is difficult because of the understory vegetation.
Long-term studies, however, have found higher Plethodontidae elongatus in young stands, but such sites required intensive sampling efforts.
Grant, et al., in 1994 examined the effect of forest age on amphibians, evaluated the amphibian communities in pine plantations and reported that intermediate aged stands of loblolly pine regeneration yielded that highest diversity for both Shannon and Simpson's diversity index.
While there has been a handful of studies addressing the negative issues of clear-cutting, most of these studies deal with the family Plethodontidae. Furthermore, interpreting results from most of these studies is difficult because of the small sample sizes, lack of statistical replication and limited study periods.
It is important to note that many of these studies have emphasized that most of these impacts appear to be short term, and that the response varies across the landscape (Bennett, et al., 1980, Dodd, 1991, Enge and Marion in 1986 and Pough, et al., in 1987).
We would like to thank you for this opportunity to comment. If you have any questions concerning our comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, sir. I hope that you will submit that as a written --
MR. BAUGHMAN: I have already submitted it to the
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lady out front.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Mr. Elwood Geiger.
MR. GEIGER: My name is Elwood E. Geiger, 5135 Dunn Avenue, Jacksonville, 32218. I am a small-time timber landowner and consulting forester.
In my consulting of forestry, I have had clients all the way across north Florida and down as far as -- as far south as Orlando and below.
My experience with the Fish and Wildlife Service involves directly and indirectly three different listings. I was directly involved for over two years with the attempt by the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the bergandixiea (phonetic), which was finally withdrawn.
My comments about the other two, the gopher turtle and the alligator comes from a lifetime of experience in the woods getting my feet wet.
I think all three of these items were listed because the studies involved did not go deep enough.
The bergandixiea (phonetic) was found after the Fish and Wildlife Service suggested we would have to stop timber operations where it grew. We found the studies that myself and others took part in for over a two-year period showed the timber operations encouraged it, and it was finally withdrawn.
The gopher turtle, as far as I'm concerned, never was endangered. It still is on the list. If you drive from Jacksonville to Pensacola on I-10 and walk off a hundred yards on any sand hill, you will find plenty of them to this day.
The alligator, again, for those of us that got out in the woods and the swamps and got our feet wet, we always found alligators.
So, I think the studies need to be looked at very carefully as to whether they were really -- as to whether they get out and get their feet wet.
I have never seen one of these flatwoods salamanders to know it. I may have seen one and not known it. The slimy salamander I'm quite familiar with, which is quite similar, according to some people. This one, as I say, I have never known.
From a small landowner's point of view, if one is found in the mile radius holes, it would just be disastrous. The various proposals that I have seen would make tree farming by the small landowner just impossible.
From a financial point of view the cost of hiring botanists and so forth as is required in some other listings is just beyond belief for a small landowner.
So, I would suggest very strongly that the studies be looked at much more critically than they have in the past.
I have a letter here which was written by William Cowan Val Bostwick, who is a fellow landowner in Duval County. He was not able to come out, and I will read this.
"U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hermitage Center, Tallahassee. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's attempt to list the flatwoods salamander as a threatened species is of great concern to me as a Realtor and as one whose family has been actively engaged in silviculture for three generations.
"My preliminary investigation reveals that there are a wide variety of salamanders, which would indicate that the salamander as a species is readily adaptable to a variety of different environments and conditions.
"While biodiversity is a nice thing, in my opinion, number one, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not presented any credible evidence to indicate that the flatwoods salamander is really a threatened species.
"Two, that if the flatwoods salamander were threatened, that it would have any measurable impact or disastrous effect on the balance of nature if it became extinct.
"Three, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has exhausted all means of capturing, breeding and releasing flatwoods salamanders on Federal and State owned lands in order to ensure its survival.
"And four, that the taking or idling of private timberlands is the only remaining option, and that this would have some reasonable chance of success if implemented.
"Without said evidence and actions, it would appear that the current proposal being put forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is nothing but a farce under which to condemn private property without compensation to the owners for either the value of the real estate or the value of the timber grown on it.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service' one-mile radius rule would take such a large amount of land as to render any remaining unusable by making silvicultural practices economically unfeasible.
"If facts be known, most foresters are small landowners and do not have acreage necessary to set aside under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' one-mile radius rule.
"One would also have to wonder if, as an adjoining landowner, he would be penalized because his neighbor had a flatwoods salamander on the property next door.
"The irony of the whole proposal is that in the event it were successful and there were actually more flatwoods salamanders as a result, it would further punish private property owners by taking more land as individual members spread out to stake their own territory. Such would be like a cancer spreading and eating up private property with no end.
"Given the foregoing and the fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not prepared to pay private property owners for their land, whether through condemnation proceedings or a regulatory taking, it would seem better to use the Department's time and resources to develop a program of capture, breeding and release of the species on Federal and State-owned lands. Sincerely, William Cowan Val Bostwick, Jr."
I thank you for the opportunity of speaking.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, sir. Is that letter available to be placed in the record? Thank you, sir.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Mr. David Mitchell, please.
MR. MITCHELL: I don't have any comments.
MR. HARRINGTON: Mr. David Dumas.
MR. DUMAS: I'm David Dumas. I live in Cairo, Georgia. I work with the timber industry. My responsibilities cover the state of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida in procuring timber from private landowners.
There are many reasons that private landowners sell their timber. In my 30 years of experience I have harvested timber to replace knee joints or to send a grandson to college or maybe to put someone in a nursing home. There have been lots of different reasons that landowners sell timber other just than monetary gain.
As I looked through this proposal, I couldn't help but think how I would go about explaining this to a landowner, you know, that a salamander could possibly keep them from harvesting what is rightfully theirs.
I just wondered if they knew that there were actively -- that I had found 136 different species of salamanders in the United States. And in Georgia where I live, I found 51 different species.
But we are talking about a certain species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife feels is on the danger of extinction.
The difference in this species and other species is the color of the pattern or the pattern that is actually on the back of this salamander. That instead of having stripes or dots, that it has a net-like pattern. Therefore, they are about to lose their rights to sell timber.
I also wondered how I could explain to them what type of study was done. As I read through the National Register, I was amazed at really how little study had been done and how many times I found words such as may result or likely occurred or currently unknown or poor historical data all through this.
I found that over the southeastern coastal plains that there were 110 localities found prior to 1990 of the flatwoods salamander, and that there were percentages quoted as to how many salamanders were found later on those 110 sites.
What about the other 10,000 sites? You know, I live in this area. I work in these woods. That's 110 localities. It's not a drop in the bucket. It's very small.
I went on to read, well, there were some new sites studied. There was 1,189 wetland sites that were studied.
According to the proposal, it only takes three acres. My goodness, 1,189 wetland sites is not a drop in the bucket either of what is available out there for the flatlands salamander.
So, my suggestion is that if you are going to propose this, do a real study. Let's not be blowing smoke up these private landowners' hinnies with this fictitious study we've got here.
I've got the study that was done here by Means that you quoted several times in your proposal.
From 1970 to 1972 there were 16 and a half hours of surveys done.
From 1980 to 1989 there were 17 and a half hours of surveys done.
From 1990 to 1992 there were 20 hours of surveys done.
And you want to take this and build a proposal on it to take away your private landowners' rights. Well, I strongly disagree.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Mr. Don Curtis.
MR. CURTIS: I want to thank you for having this hearing so everybody can express their sentiments on this topic. I am Don Curtis, C-u-r-t-i-s. I own Aucilla River Forestry Company, which is a small forest consulting firm. We primarily assist smaller corporate and private individual landowners.
When I got the information about this and began to examine the information from every source I could find, I found myself needing to oppose this listing, and I can very concisely give you three reasons. Some of them will echo ones you have already heard.
First of all, I think more study is needed. As I have reviewed the study, several things -- several major questions came to mind.
For instance, when salamanders were found in heavily impacted silvicultural sites, why? Why are they there and why is this inference made that the silviculture is a problem if they are there?
A second example is when I look -- let me back up. We manage game and wildlife for landowners.
When I look at something on the decline, I usually look at the predators because everything is a part of some food chain out in nature. I found very little information about how predators were affecting this particular salamander.
There was a reference to some fish possibly impacting it, but I think there needs to be more study in that direction.
There may be some things occurring through current forest management practices that are really helping other species in that food chain.
If they are doing well, perhaps they are having an impact on the salamanders.
I think first of all more study is needed. Secondly, I found nothing that addressed the social or economic impact of the landowners.
You are hearing that theme regularly, and there's a reason for it, because people are fearful of it. They don't understand it. I think the human side needs to be looked at, the human dimensions.
The third thing is with the limited amount of studies that have been done, there seems to be a lot of reference to public lands. Perhaps a lot more of the limited research was focused on public lands.
There seems to be a fair number of the salamanders there, and I would suggest that perhaps with the public lands that's very appropriate, and there may be a need to consider either some relocations of public lands or something, but what it also told me is the sky isn't falling for this species. There's still plenty of it around, particularly on public lands.
And public lands, I see them becoming more like a zoo for animals, for the animal species, which is okay. That's some of the purpose for having public lands.
I would encourage some closer look at that, particularly the relocation issue.
Transcript Page 40
I would like to thank you for being able to make my comments.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Curtis.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Pete Gerrell.
MR. GERRELL: May I speak from over here, please?
THE REPORTER: Not if you want to be on the record. I need to hear you.
MR. GERRELL: I want to be on the record. I just noticed the papers were slipping off this, and I didn't want to lose what I had to say.
I'm Pete Gerrell, private landowner, a member of the Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce, amongst other things. I'm also a historian in forestry.
The first thing I would like to present to you is a resolution from the Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce.
"Whereas, the Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce is aware of a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the flatwoods salamander as a threatened species.
"Whereas Wakulla County may contain flatwoods salamanders, and
"Whereas the Apalachicola forest makes up a significant portion of the land area of Wakulla County" -- let me interject something here. I noticed several of them said something about moving these to government land.
"Whereas the Apalachicola National Forest does not pay ad valorem property taxes, but does pay a share of the proceeds from timber sales to the County for use in schools and for other public purposes, and
"Whereas as a result of the red-cockaded woodpecker, the timbering practices on the forest have changed, greatly reducing the funds paid to Wakulla County, and
"Whereas the so-called net ban amendment has drastically impacted the economy of Wakulla County, and
"Whereas the listing of the flatwoods salamander as threatened would reduce the revenue available to Wakulla County from timber harvesting on the national forest, and would reduce the opportunities for timber harvest and economic development on private lands.
"Now Therefore, be it resolved by the Board of Directors of the Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce that: One, the chamber requests the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not list the flatwoods salamander as a threatened species; and, Two, requests Wakulla County's congressional delegation to resist and oppose the listing of the flatwoods salamander as a threatened species.
"Adopted at the regular meeting of the Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors this 14th day of April 1998," signed by the president, Bob Routa.
Next, I will be representing myself and my family. That's my sister back here, I asked her to speak.
We were born and raised in the flatwoods. Our land goes back to 1827. It was given to my great, great, great grandmother for services served by her only brother in the Revolutionary War. So, that's how far back we go, and we hope to pass it on to our children.
With that in mind, whatever you do to affect that will break a chain that's been here a long time.
As I said, I have done much research in the history of the forest. I'm not promoting my book, but this book I'm ready to publish now. It's an illustrated history of the naval stores, turpentine industry, 140 pages, photographs, drawings, whatever. I'm ready to publish it. I'm not promoting it, because I don't have any intention of making anything off of it.
My next book that I've already done a lot of research on will be the harvesting of virgin timbers in the coastal plains, this area that you're talking about this varmint lives in.
I'd like to go back and talk to you about these two activities. First, the harvesting of the virgin timber. It started in southern Virginia and worked its way around and went all the way into Houston, Texas, around the coastal plains because that's where the timber was, the pine and slash and longleaf pine and the cypress.
Any of us that have walked into these cypress ponds knows that the stumps are still there where they harvested those. Do you know how they got those out? They flooded the lands and floated them out. They built tram roads all through it.
I can take you into ponds everywhere down here in this country and show you, in this coastal plain, and show you tram roads that were built into it, into the land to harvest the timber.
Why was it and how was it that this little salamander lived through all of that? It was a devastating thing. If you go back in history, you will find from 1870 to 1930 is about the period of time, the turpentine industry.
I noticed in your proposed listing that you said something about summer burning, from one of your biologists. I thought it was Means. I went back and checked and it wasn't him. I've worked with him in many years past. He didn't say that.
Some of you said something about summer burning. The turpentine people took the cups off of the trees, raked around the trees -- this is after they had a cup on the trees -- up until 1902 they didn't have a cup on it. They had a little box at the base of the trees that caught the turpentine there.
They raked around the trees and they burned it in the wintertime, the off season.
Another thing that was going on in these turpentine woods was the range cows. They ranged all the way around these coastal plains areas. The early settlers brought them in here.
They burned the woods in the early spring to freshen the range. It's history. It's known. The flatwoods salamander evidently survived through this.
The piney woods rooter hog, have you ever heard of it? We used to catch them. We would take them in in the summertime and fatten them for food in the winter. Put them on crops, fatten them for food in the winter.
That's the way we lived, off of the land. That piney woods rooter hog would go out there and actually devastate a flatlands area, a low place with moisture, hunting his food.
Today -- on your page 92 you say the primary activity affecting the habitat of the flatwoods salamander on private land are silviculture.
On 89 of your proposal, "Surveys of historical flatwoods salamander localities document the destruction and loss of three sites due to their conversion to pine plantation."
Well, now isn't that something? You are going to take my land away from me that's been in my family since 1827 because they documented three sites.
"Optimum habitat of the flatwoods salamander," page 87, "is open, moist woodland of longleaf, slash pine maintained by frequent summer fires."
She read that again. We don't have summer fires anymore. Occasionally you will see some of them burning, but it's not a natural thing. It was a natural thing before the early settlers came here.
The Indians didn't burn it, they let lightning strike it, and it burned in the summer when the lightning season was.
Predators. You list one predator, fish. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to speak from over there. You see him (indicating)? Fish loved them. That's the flatwoods salamander. I got him out of my tackle box.
Let's look at the predators that are out there now that were not even considered in this study at all.
The breeding sites, page 87, "Isolated cypress ponds, flatgum, slash pine, dominated depressions which dry completely on a cyclic basis."
Well, fish don't live there. They are generally shallow and relatively small.
87 and 88, "The female lays her eggs beneath leaf litter under logs and sphagnum moss or at bases of bushes, small trees or clumps of grass. They live in moist, flat piney woods, breed and lay eggs in ponds and depressions."
What kind of natural predator do we find in this area? I don't see anything in this study about a natural predator in this area. The alligator -- I used to fish with an old fellow named Johnny Miller. Mr. Johnny says, son, don't throw that thing out there -- we called them mud puppies -- don't throw that thing out there in front of those gators. They will tear this pond up.
Nobody has thought about the little gator and him being protected and how many are out there now eating these mud puppies.
The raccoon. People quit hunting raccoons. Nobody eats them anymore. We used to leave a foot on them so you could tell it was a coon when you took them and sold them to the people for food. They sold the hides. Nobody eats them anymore, so they're out there in the woods. They're eating the salamanders and anything else in the lowlands.
The wild hog. Not the old piney woods rooter line, he's gone, but the wild hog is more of a domestic line that they put into the woods now to hunt. They're in this lowland rooting it up.
I want to talk to you about something. The migration of the fire ant, the coyote and the armadillo, those three varmints have migrated in here in the last 30 years. The fire ant came here a little before that into Mobile in 1830 -- 1930 -- if I talk 1800s, that's because I think that way.
Anyway, it came into Mobile in 1930. The armadillo, the first one I ever saw was in Volusia County in the early '60s.
Do you know what that armadillo is doing out there in this lowland? A fellow gave me 500 tublings, longleaf pine tublings. I set those out. Would you believe that the dang armadillo rooted every one of them up, didn't leave a one, for the moisture in it, in the dry times.
So, what have they done in these lowlands? Walk out there and look, people. Just walk out across this place and look where these females lay their eggs and see what is going on. You can't help but see that they've rooted it up.
So, are we destroying it? Prove it. You haven't done it with this study, not what I see of it.
The coyote, we all know that he migrated here from the west. He's gone right on up into South Carolina.
I bet if you look back you will find that Mississippi had the flatwoods salamander, as well as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina. And if it wasn't too cold for them on up into North Carolina, southern Virginia and over into eastern Texas, Louisiana.
They've got natural predators out there. This study didn't do a thing for natural predators. It didn't tell me anything about it.
Not only have these varmints come in here, migrated in here, they've increased in numbers.
We have protected the gator and he's increased. Every time one of these little fellows goes out into a pond he's waiting for a gator or something to get him.
On the last page of your proposed rules, "The Service intends that any final action resulting from this proposal will be accurate and as effective as possible."
This is not accurate, people. All you've got to do is live in these woods like I do and you will know that it's not accurate.
So, I request that more study be done, especially in the areas of natural predators and what effect our silvicultural operations have.
Thank you for letting me speak.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Gerrell.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Our next speaker, please, Mr. John deBrauwere.
MR. DEBRAUWERE: My name is John deBrauwere. That's d-e-B-r-a-u-w-e-r-e. I am a consulting forester with F & W Forestry Services. I am a member of the Association of Consulting Foresters. I am a registered forester in Alabama and Georgia, certified burner in Florida. I'm also a small nonindustrial private landowner.
Most of my questions have already been raised, but I would like to highlight a couple of them. Number one, is captive breeding possible for these animals,
Transcript Page 50
and why has this not been attempted?
What would the population size need to be to remove the flatwoods salamander from protection? Is there a threshold in which you say, well, we've got 10,000 animals or 10,000 population, therefore, we no longer consider them to be in danger?
Has a benefit to cost ratio been made or performed that would address the action that this threatened status would entail?
In looking through this, I see a lot of suggestions, but I don't -- and maybe I just don't have it here, but I don't see anything that tells me exactly what restriction would be enacted.
We read of things that may be detrimental, such as bedding, but, you know, what would you prevent us from doing? I think we need to know that.
We fear what you are going to do, but we need to know exactly what would happen.
Again, why a one-mile radius? That just seems excessive.
Mr. Baughman talked about some of the studies that had been made showing that they do not have that mobility of one mile. To me it seems to be very excessive.
We have several clients who are investors who buy timberland as an investment, and I don't see anything -- I've heard people say that we will not be compensated if the land is taken. We need to know what will happen if this does go through, how or will we be compensated.
There's also -- I am speaking as a private landowner now -- there is also something that if you look at a bigger picture here, if you found enough sites to close down all silvicultural activities, where would the raw materials that would have come from that, where would the wood and fiber -- how is that going to be replaced?
Now, I think I speak for all the foresters here when I tell you that we in forestry love our profession. If it were up to us, there would never be a tree cut because we love trees, too. The fact of the matter is we need raw materials to live the life style that we want to live.
Therefore, if you restrict these certain areas from any harvesting of raw materials, where will the raw materials come from to replace it?
I will leave you with one last thing that I saw a bumper sticker near a clay mine. It said if it can't be grown it has to be mined.
So, by restricting timber harvesting, you just will have to look somewhere else to get that raw material. I thank you.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Judy Hancock, please.
MS. HANCOCK: Good evening. My name is Judy Hancock. I live in Lake City, Florida. I am here representing the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club. I work on public lands issues and sometimes wildlife issues and also some other things that continue to come up within Florida.
I wanted to say that we will submit some written comments. I didn't really realize you were having this meeting until a couple of days ago, so we haven't had an opportunity to put our comments together.
As I said, I do live in Lake City. I live near the Osceola National Forest. We are fortunate to have at least a few flatwoods salamanders in Osceola. I have had the pleasure of accompanying the field researchers to look for these nice animals in the national forest a few years ago.
The Sierra Club has reviewed the petition and the background information, and we support the proposal to list this species as threatened due to habitat loss and degradation and due to continued habitat destruction and degradation.
Unfortunately it is highly unlikely that habitat loss in Florida is going to slow. As the human population growth continues upward, infrastructure is also increased.
It also cannot be denied that ag and silvicultural practices have altered many of the small, isolated wetlands that are essential to flatwoods salamanders and to many other species.
The cypress mulching industry in Florida is an example of this.
Qualified scientists have spent years researching this data of the flatwoods salamanders which has formed the basis for this proposal, and we believe it is warranted.
Concerning public lands, the Service should consider in its deliberations the Florida bill, House Bill 1119 which passed in 1997. It required revenue producing activities, including timber harvest, on State lands to be considered in developing the land management plan for these public lands.
And the bill being considered this year before House Bill 1119 is even a year old, this bill is House Bill 3671, Senate Bill 840 that establishes timber management as one of the major uses on the public conservation lands.
The State's public lands and the species and communities on these lands that several speakers have referred to are not as well protected as they were two years ago. The species that we believe these lands will also be the stronghold for may need more consideration on nonpublic lands because of the change in the focus of Florida's public lands appropriating.
While most of the public isn't really aware of this, because it hasn't been well covered in the press, there was a major change in focus last year. It looks like if this year is any indication this is going to continue every year until major changes occur on the State's public lands.
In regard to burning, in Florida there was a joint effort several years ago by the U.S. Forest Service, the University of Florida, fish and forestry, Florida Forestry Association and industry representatives and environmental groups to pass legislation to provide some liability protection for prescribed burning under certain requirements such as becoming a certified burner, developing burn plans and similar things for responsible burning.
This proposed legislation is now law. I hope that other states have or are working on similar legislation.
We do need to work together on preserving the right and the need to burn and to benefit prior dependent species as well as for economic reasons and other reasons. That's something that we can work together on. I hope that everyone will continue to do that. Thank you.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Ms. Hancock. We need to take about a ten-minute break so that our court reporter can rest her fingertips for a moment. I understand that there are some restrooms out in the foyer of the building, and we will reconvene promptly in ten minutes.
MR. HARRINGTON: Ladies and gentlemen, I have about 15 more cards to call, so let's get back underway. The first one I need to call is Mr. Bob Roquemore.
I understand that there may be a little bit of difficulty hearing the speakers in the back of the room. I believe that we are as amplified as we can be from this podium here, so if I could just ask you to speak up, please.
MR. ROQUEMORE: My name is Bob Roquemore, spelled R-o-q-u-e-m-o-r-e. I am a private landowner, and I'm here representing some businesses as well.
I have been listening to comments that have gone on here, and there's one word that came to mind that nobody else has brought up, and it's reality.
Let's talk about a few realities. One of the first ones, you are proposing a one-mile radius, basically just putting a hiatus on any silvicultural practices within a one-mile radius of a flatwoods salamander habitat.
I didn't have much time to prepare for this. I just found out about it Monday night. I work a nine-hour-a-day job.
This is a page of a soil map. Most of you probably are familiar with it (indicating). This one page represents an area of about 15 square miles.
On this one page I very hurriedly looked over, figuring what you were calling potential flatwoods salamander breeding habitats. I found 26 sites in this 15 square miles. Your one-mile radius would eliminate that entire page, and most of the pages around from any silvicultural practice is the way I understand it.
Now, this is just a page taken at random, but it represents a small part of Berrien County that's located in the coastal plains of south Georgia.
I will bet that the whole area taken up by the flatwoods salamander looks just like this page, this section of countryside that this page represents.
You have completely eliminated 100 percent of the land of -- of silvicultural land use in south Georgia with your proposal.
Let's talk about another reality. We are talking about a species that has some people say 11, some people say 14 similar types of salamanders that fill the same ecological niche and live in the same kind of habitat, do the same kind of things that this salamander does.
This salamander eats bugs, larvae, small animals, ants, anything small enough for it to get in its mouth it will eat. Those other 11 or 14 kind of related salamanders do the same thing, as do frogs, birds, armadillos, fish, snakes, lizards. The list goes on.
If this species went extinct today, you've got all of those other critters running around that do the same thing this species of salamander does, and they are all over the place. They are not endangered.
Life is going to go on when this salamander is long gone.
I am rambling because I did not have time to adequately prepare for this thing, and I apologize for it, but I do feel that what I have to say is important, if you will just bear with me.
I did a little bit of figuring, and I estimate if the salamander decided he wanted to run away from a fire, and he ran as hard as he could go for eight hours he would cover about a half a mile. And that's assuming he ran eight hours at a greatly exaggerated rate of travel. I've got the figures down here that I used to come up with that, if you want to see it.
The one-mile radius is completely unjustified. I told a fellow in the audience, you've got a scientist that says he's found one of these salamanders a mile away from his breeding habitat, but if you look far enough back in the early 1970s you will find where some boys found a two-foot-long hammerhead shark in Two Mile Branch in downtown Valdosta, Georgia. It was written up in the Valdosta Times.
Now, that's as real as this salamander being a mile away from its breeding habitat. How often is that going to happen? How common is that kind of behavior and that kind of coverage? How real is that compared to the real, everyday life style of this salamander?
To get back to this salamander being one of about 15 or so species of salamanders. I would bet -- I would be willing -- it's not a bet because nothing is riding on it, but I would be willing to give each one of you $5 for every person out of the list of a hundred of your friends and associates, outside of the people living under your roof and the people that you work with, that will even acknowledge they knew this salamander existed.
And I bring that up to show the insignificance of this salamander. Now, the bald eagle, manatees, alligators and many other kinds of animals -- and I'm an animal lover, not just fried and boiled, but I like to see them rambling through the yard and across the highway. I like that.
I've taught my children to love them. I have a Boy Scout troop that I teach to appreciate nature and the animals that live there.
Let's be realistic. We are talking about a salamander that nobody knows exists and has no economic impact, no wildlife impact. If it was removed from its niche of ecology, its impact and its absence would not be noticed.
There are many other species that fill that same niche up and down the ecology.
Now, there are sentimental values attached to some things. People like to see alligators. People love to see bald eagles, hawks, owls, that sort of thing. Everybody is in love with the manatees because they know about them.
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Let's make an analogy with human beings. Most everybody in this country probably is in love with the Statue of Liberty, too, but if a terrorist organization came in, blew up the Statue of Liberty and the pieces got buried, would one of you please tell me what impact it would have on the world wide economy, on the New York state economy, the city of New York, Tallahassee, Florida, or whatever because the Statue of Liberty is no longer there?
People are still going to be immigrating to this country. People are still going to go to New York and spend tourist dollars, and crime rate is going to continue to go up whether the Statue of Liberty is there or not.
Now, this is the same kind of thing with this salamander. It's exactly the same thing. It is completely insignificant, but yet you are proposing to do away with forestry practices in four states.
Let's look at another piece of realism. Right after I found the notes for this meeting, I read another piece of forestry literature. It's put out by some of the folks at Stone Container, so they may want to correct me on this, but if I recall right, the United States Forestry Service is predicting that within 20 years the United States will not be able to meet its demand for forest products and that we will become a major importer of forest products. Now that's as things exist today.
If your proposal goes into effect, and you eliminate silvicultural practices in four states that have a combined economic impact of between $20 to $35 billion a year in timber, you are fixing to eliminate what potential we have to meet our timber needs 20 years from now.
As far as a net importer of forest products -- and again some of you professional foresters might correct me on this -- but if I'm not mistaken, the United States leads the world in the amount of land that is reforested, in the percentage of timber harvested each year.
Now, if that's true, and I believe that it is, and all these other countries are cutting forests down but not replanting them, where is all this timber products going to come from realistically? Can anybody answer the question?
Moving on down, you're proposing to impact everybody in this room by telling them they can't use their land as they see fit.
What they are doing is growing on this land trees that provide the lumber, the paper, other forest products that everybody in this room depends on to maintain the life style that we currently enjoy.
You people who write books, you use paper. People who drive trucks up and down the highway to deliver goods to the grocery stores for us to eat that is delivered on cartons and pallets made from forest products.
Everybody has got paper money in their wallet to keep from having to lug around a big bag of quarters. We all like paper money because of the convenience of it.
What you are proposing to do is going to completely destroy the present state of our life style as we know it. It won't exist because it can't exist because the products that make it possible won't be there because of what you are proposing to do for this salamander that has no significance to anything else on this planet other than somebody from the Sierra Club likes to go look at this particular type of salamander. Now, that's reality.
If I'm taking up too much time, I will hush right now, but I've got a little bit more I can throw in here. I feel like I've taken up a lot of time. If I've rambled, I do apologize.
That's the reality of the situation. I want to throw in one more piece of reality. I'm like the fellow who said the reason he's here is not because he's curious but because he's scared of what the government is going to do.
Now, I'm kind of like him because I've been watching what the government has been doing from the time I was a child up to the present day. The honest truth is they've done an awful lot to me that would make me scared of them.
Going further than that, you've got to use some common sense about this thing. What you are proposing is completely devoid of any common sense. You are just going by gut reflex because you like this salamander and you think that any species, whatever it is, has got to be preserved no matter what. That is unrealistic.
It's this kind of mindless foolishness that makes people want to blow up Federal buildings, send pipe bombs through the mail to judges, be scared of what the government is going to do to them next week. You all are doing it to yourselves, people. This kind of foolishness right here.
If I've hurt anybody's feelings, I apologize, but again we are talking about reality.
I thank you for listening to me. I strongly urge you to throw this proposal in the trash and let's get on with real life. Thank you very much.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Harold Stokes, please.
MR. STOKES: I'm Harold Stokes from Bryceville, Florida, a private nonindustrial landowner. I am concerned with this proposal, and I live in the area, I guess, where most everything we own would be of the prime habitat of what has been described to me, from articles that I have read.
This proposal, and particularly the one-mile radius around the breeding ground, would encompass the majority of everything I own and probably the majority of anything that my neighbors own because we are in the area that is in your description.
If this comes to pass, it's going to eliminate a living for us, our families, our way of life of a lot of people in my area. I live in an area that depends on wood products. It just looks like a bad day coming should this come to pass.
I urge you to consider that and hopefully take this species off the list. Thank you.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Mr. Phil Leary.
MR. LEARY: Thank you and good evening. My name is Phil Leary. I am the Government Community Affairs Director for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation. We are the largest and oldest general farm organization in the state of Florida, representing approximately 129,000 member families.
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight I would first like to make a statement and tell you that this is exactly what is wrong with the Endangered Species Act and why we need significant revision to the Act. In fact, we are not really protecting anything. All we are doing is impacting private property rights and the ability for private landowners to be productive and have an economic income.
Currently the state of Florida has the largest and most aggressive land acquisition program in the United States and probably the world. By the year 2000 there will be approximately 2.3 million acres in the state of Florida under public ownership. That's Federal and State, primarily, some local government.
What we are offering to you tonight is an alternative theory. Rather than continue on this regulatory process and continue regulatory demands upon private landowners and industrial landowners, what we advocate is drop the listing, enter into an incentive based program with both public and private landowners to establish additional colonies of the salamander, if, in fact, that is really what needs to be done.
Some of the questions raised here tonight about the predators, the coyote I can tell you has devastated all types of wildlife in this state and continues to be a problem and will continue to be a problem because there's really no way to eradicate it.
Finally, our members, the small family farmers, basically cannot stand any additional regulation. We are regulated to the point where approximately 20 to 25 percent of gross income comes to -- goes for meeting regulatory needs for both State, Federal and local governments.
I urge you tonight to reconsider this proposal. You know the thing that I guess flabbergasted me the most was the fact that this was all precipitated by a radical environmental group, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation out of Boulder, Colorado. No Florida residents, actual residents, were participating in this.
You know, I just feel it is ironic that these radical environmental groups -- and I certainly have sympathy for the position you are in -- come in and file these suits and put you in these positions because quite frankly from what I have read there is no justification for listing this salamander.
So, with that, I thank you for the opportunity to speak and look forward to working with you.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Leary.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Mr. Jimmy Bullock.
MR. BULLOCK: Thank you. My name is Jimmy Bullock. I am manager of environment and wildlife for International Paper. I am here tonight, though, in the capacity as a certified wildlife biologist in offering these remarks on behalf of the Southeast Amphibian Survey Cooperative.
For those of you who haven't heard us by that name, you might know us by the acronym SEASC. That might help you remember us a little bit better.
The Southeast Amphibian Survey Cooperative includes ten forest products company, the American Forest and Paper Association, the National Council of the Paper Industry for Air and Stream Improvement. That group is our industry independent research organization.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has also provided financial support for the survey and associated habitat research.
Our cooperative was formed over three years ago to survey temporary ponds in privately owned managed forests. I might stress that those were industrially owned private forests for three amphibian species of concern: the gopher frog, the striped newt, the flatwoods salamander.
Simply speaking, we have some concerns. Why we came together, first to list the species, implications, particularly land use implications for the private landowner regarding the species, the lack of good, scientific information relative to the species, and really we feel like we can find ways to develop innovative management strategies that stress incentive as opposed to those that would offer regulatory burden.
Our cooperative is in the process of completing our third and final year of surveys. To date we surveyed approximately 400 ponds in Florida, Georgia, south Alabama, and we have surveyed those ponds from one to six times each.
We want to acknowledge the Fish and Wildlife Service for your cooperation in that research and those surveys and for reopening the public comment period so that we can include that survey information in the public comment period. And we will do that prior to the June 1st date.
We feel the survey demonstrates commitment by the cooperatives' members to better understand the relationship between amphibians and intensively managed forest lands here in the south.
I think that the passions of the private sector have been well expressed tonight, and we want to echo that the surveys have led us to have some concerns, also, as a group and the individual member companies.
Some of those concerns include how might a final rule be administered, the impact of listing on various land use practices. I think we have heard that one echoed, and the states covered by the proposed rule. What are private landowners' responsibilities relative to identification of known salamander populations and future survey protocol.
We will individually and collectively as a group provide more detailed questions and comments in written form, again, prior to the June 1st closing date.
We also want to take this opportunity to thank the Service for holding these public hearings, particularly to provide nonindustrial, private landowners and others potentially impacted by future listing this opportunity to express comments and concerns.
We would like to conclude our remark with a simple reminder. In the southern United States I think it's well documented that over 90 percent of the forest
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habitats are private ownership. Regardless of how this listing decision goes, future efforts to manage any species of concern, including the flatwoods salamander, will have a far greater likelihood of success if the private landowner has incentive to be a voluntary, willing participant.
Any successful management strategy across the landscape must consider not only the needs of the species but the objectives and constraints of the landowners who own and manage its habitat.
Again, regardless of the outcome of this proposed listing, the Southeast Amphibian Survey Cooperative pledges to stay at the table with the Service and seek these innovative management strategies and find workable solutions for this species.
Thank you for allowing me to comment.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Bullock.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Mr. John Wesley Langdale, please.
MR. LANGDALE: Good evening. I guess I'd like to make a couple of comments. My name is John Wesley Langdale, III. I am involved -- work with the Langdale Company, which is a family owned timber company in south Georgia and north Florida.
Myself, along with our generation, represents the fifth generation, also, in what was at one time a turpentine operations, a woods cow operation, piney woods rivers hogs and lots and lots of hard work.
For years and years and years there was no money to be made. The lands that the company now harvests and grows wood on was a -- a lot of the land at the time was bought on the courthouse square for taxes.
The American people were unable to pay the taxes on the land because there was no industry. There were no markets for wood products. There were no jobs. There was nothing. I mean it was just land.
So, I'd like to start off by saying that I feel like -- I'm 28 years old, I'm married, fixing to have a child.
I feel like America stands for several things. Our President of the United States stands up on the television and he preaches family values. I mean we see that on television. We are talking about family values. You know, what are we going to teach our children? What are we going to talk about?
I feel like foresters, the profession of foresters as well as private landowners, be it one acre of a person who is in downtown Tallahassee or be it a person in South Carolina that owns 10,000 acres -- foresters and landowners are the number one environmentalists.
We are people who are concerned about the environment. We are the people who are concerned about wildlife and our resources.
I don't think that anyone could be more hurt by anything than when someone who has been on the land, our family for 104 years, when you see a plant or animal that's gone.
Now, we would all like to see our lands in a natural state. We are all environmentalists. We all would like to see things left as they were, but my family, my grandfather and my father have taught me that the reason that we have longleaf trees and wire grass on our lands was because wild fires came in the summertime -- lightning struck when it was very dry.
The state of Georgia didn't have any fire protection. Your house -- we are not talking about just burning woods, we are talking about burning your house up. We are talking about killing families. So, the State of Georgia came up with the Georgia Forestry Commission to -- the State put some money in it for fire protection. They came up with fire protection.
People started planting trees in Georgia. They were able to build sawmills and build paper mills and create jobs in the economy.
This is not an issue about hurting the Langdale Company or hurting Tenneco Packaging Company or hurting Rayonier. This is about people.
Every single paper company, every single landowner, this is about the common man. This is going to hurt the common man in this country that is the one who pays the taxes, the one who scrapes by every week.
I mean kids are not able to be in day care like some wealthy folks. They are at home running around crazy while the mother and the father are working. This right here, it's not going to hurt the people that are wealthy and that have vast landholdings, it's going to hurt the people that work for these people, be it in their paper mills, in their jobs, in their bag plants, in their sawmills. It's going to hurt the common man.
Our country cannot continue, in my personal opinion, the country cannot continue to keep running over the little man. History shows in Israel, South Africa, when a man stands up in front of his family with a broom handle, stands up in front of a man with a machine gun to look out for what is right, what is right is right.
Nobody here likes the fact that the dinosaurs went extinct. Nobody likes the fact that this salamander is threatened or endangered, but we've got to live with things.
More people are being born, more products are being used. In our country, if we are going to continue like we're going -- and these people here are the ones that are going to pay, the people here, the ones that have family and have jobs and create businesses and the route they are struggling to make a living, to try to make payroll, to create jobs. That's who it's going to cost.
We are not going to help people by regulating things and -- I mean I just don't think that this salamander is the issue. We can come up with -- we can come up with a thousand plants. We can come here next week and say, well, you know, there's some plants in the flatwoods that aren't there, there are things that aren't here that were here.
You know, you can blame it on forest products companies for planting more trees per acre and using herbicides and fertilizers. We can blame whoever we want to, but we've done it to ourselves as a people.
We are having more people come in our country that are getting our services for free while our people are starving to death. We are allowing people to come in and we pay them for these things, so these companies have got to produce more wood per acre.
We've got to take these lands that are nonproducing and put them into income producing properties. We have to. We don't have a choice unless we want to do away with our business and free enterprise the way it is.
The issue is not this salamander. There's going to be plenty of things that come up that are going to be threatened and endangered, some peoples as a whole.
So, I just will ask you, I know that you all were not -- didn't come up with this idea. I know that this is important to some people. It's important to me and my family and my children, but when we go and do a study on something that we have affected as a whole, we've got to be extremely careful because it's going to affect -- it's going to have long-lasting ripples.
The mistakes that I've made in my life, I get out of college and I'm smart and I'm going to solve all the problems. There's a post that's leaning over. I decide I'm going to walk up there and straighten that post up. Well, I don't have any idea that that thing is going to cause major waves for everybody. That's going to knock people out of a boat that weren't standing up because I'm going to fix a small problem.
I think that all people are willing to sit down and negotiate and talk about things, but just to take an area and enclose it by a square mile is just a -- it's just something that seriously needs consideration. It really does, because it's going to impact the common man. When the common man gets backed in a corner, if you back a dog into a corner and you don't leave him a way out, something has got to happen.
That's not what our country was founded about. It's not what our constitution is about. We can fight in court. We can fight in back yards. We can fight it any way, but that's not what we should do. We don't solve anything when we talk. We have to communicate, communicate.
We have to come to work on solutions. I thank you all for the opportunity to come here tonight. It's our family -- to show you how crazy we were, we came from England to Charleston, South Carolina. My great, great, great granddaddy in 1894 packed up and moved to the Okefenokee Swamp. So, we left the beach and went to mosquitoes.
So, if that tells about turpentine, we went down there and worked. They worked and worked and worked. We've been able to, not to make money, not to acquire assets, but we've been able to create a way of life.
We have been able to raise five generations of people on the land and build school systems and have a community and build churches and teach family values.
That's what we see on TV. That's what is going on. I mean if we're going to do this, we've got to be consistent.
So, if it's left up to you all, and you all do have the opportunity to look at these things, we just urge you from the bottom of our hearts to just have the wisdom and the courage and just do what is right for the American people as a whole, not for any one individual group because we have all got to live and work together.
Thank you very much for your time.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you very much, Mr. Langdale.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Ms. Michele Curtis, please.
MS. CURTIS: My name is Michele Curtis. I'm a landowner, forester, and also the landowner representative of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission's Nongame Wildlife Advisory Council.
The advisory council has not had an opportunity to discuss this subject, thus my comments tonight will represent my perspective.
I adamantly oppose listing the flatwoods salamander as a threatened species for the following reasons.
Based on the studies I have read, I believe there is insufficient data to support the listing. Studies indicate that the flatwoods salamander specimens are extremely difficult to gather. In fact, and I quote out of one of the studies, they are not observed unless a concerted effort is made to locate them.
So, these kind of species aren't just around where people can see them by walking through the forest.
Next I think there's insufficient quantitative historical data to support this baseline information to claim that these species have declined.
From a recent game commission document, I noticed that no previous surveys were actually done. Incidental collections were of limited geographic scope. So, the historical baseline data for this decision to list this species is based on incidental sightings in the past. That's amazing to me that we can take incidental sightings of an organism that is not easily seen or found and have that as the scientific basis for listing it as threatened.
The random, infrequent sampling methods used to gather a lot of samples inject an unknown amount of variability in the results. The studies have shown that ponds that were sampled one month, no larvae was found. One month later they found larvae.
Another pond was sampled. No larvae was found. A year later, two years later -- two years later larvae was found.
That says to me that the random, infrequent sampling methods used are not adequate to understand what has happened in nature.
The random sampling methods used and the frequencies are not statistically sound.
There were a very limited number of sites sampled in Florida. Those sample results were extrapolated to make conclusions that are extremely far reaching on coastal flatwoods in Florida.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service use of this insufficient quantitative data to support a listing is really disappointing. I'm appalled.
I do support continued studies of the flatwoods salamander, though. I believe that a study plan ought to be developed, and the study plans ought to be analyzed and the results analyzed by a team of people including landowners, foresters and biologists.
I firmly oppose listing the flatwoods salamander
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due to insufficient quantitative data to support the need and the far reaching impact on landowners and land use that has not been appropriately considered.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Wilson Rivers, please.
MR. RIVERS: Before I begin, I would like to say that after hearing these talks I really don't know how to write a speech. The next time that I plan to do this I'm going to have my speech written by Johnny Mack Brown.
Then I heard Elwood Geiger talk, and I heard the historian talk and I heard the reality man talk. Then I heard the Langdale youth talk. Then I heard the Farm Bureau representative speak. So, what I'm going to say to you is really superfluous to what they have said much better than the way I could say it.
I have written this, and it will take five minutes because I'm not reading every word.
My name is Wilson Rivers. I live in Lake Butler, Union County, Florida. I am 75 years old. I am a nonindustrial timber landowner.
For 40 years I was a retail merchant of hardware, furniture and large appliances. During those years I invested in pine timberland. For the past 12 years I have been managing and enjoying these timberlands.
My wife and I like and enjoy birds, animals and wildlife. One of our neighbors described our place as the house with all those bird houses.
I have six large bird houses with 30 to 40 purple martins in them. I have eight bluebird houses and birds in them.
I have a bird feeder for redbirds, woodpeckers, blue jays and others. Mockingbirds and brown thrashers nest in our shrubbery. We often see mourning doves, meadow larks, robins, cat birds, blackbirds, crows and cattle egrets on our lawn.
At dusk and evening time I've seen armadillos, possums, and foxes in and around our driveway. Two large hawks often remain on our wood fence as we drive out of our driveway. We see turkeys, deer and coyotes in our pasture.
During this past year we have seen three alligators in our catfish pond. One of them looked to be at least ten feet long. A few years ago we had a five-foot alligator in our swimming pool.
I have often thought of tree growing as a noble occupation. Not only do trees make the air cleaner, the water better, help to hold the soil together, but they also provide a habitat for wildlife.
In addition to providing a nice recreational area, the trees provide an important sustainable resource of needed products for use in our everyday life.
I consider myself as a different type of a farmer than the average farmer who plants in the spring and harvests in the fall.
When I plant trees, I often wonder how many years they will grow. At my age I probably will not see the harvest of these trees we planted last year or the ones we will plant this year.
I had originally planned that my children and grandchildren would reap the results of my labor. Now I wonder about the outcome since recently reading the proposal to list the flatwoods salamander as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
I must say that I was greatly disturbed and distressed as to the ramifications that could not only affect me but also my neighbors and any others who own pine timberland.
Some of the unlawful acts listed in this proposal would include the alteration of suitable pine flatwoods habitat within a radius which would include thousands of acres. If such a habitat was discovered on my property, it would mean a virtual shut-down of all timber activities. The same would be true for my neighbors and others.
So many years would be wasted. Not to be able to do anything with this property, other than to continue to pay taxes on it, would just be unbelievable.
For so much concern to be shown for the salamander and yet no apparent concern to be shown to those who would really be devastated by such an action is also unbelievable.
I have tried to show that I am not an anti-birds, animals or wildlife, however, I am against the possible virtual taking of landowners' property. I urge that this proposal not be enacted. Thank you.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Rivers. I want to assure you that your comments are not superfluous, and they will be looked at by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
I want to commend you for actually getting a bluebird to come to a bluebird house. Not very many people can do that.
MR. RIVERS: I've got it.
MR. HARRINGTON: Our next speaker is Bruce Means, please.
MR. MEANS: I'm sorry, I just arrived on a plane, so I didn't have much time to put anything together, but I have some comments that will be a little extraneous.
I think I would like to bring the panel's attention to some facts here that seem to be overlooked.
A lot of folks are reacting very strongly to the proposal that you have put forth. I think that they are not really justified in that for several reasons.
One of the reasons is in the Federal Register itself that was published, the announcement of this -- I was just kind of looking over this -- folks can go back and read this.
We are talking about in Alabama five known historical records, no new ponds, no flatwoods salamanders known.
So, we can't worry about silvicultural impacts in Alabama because there are no known populations in there.
In Georgia there were 33 historically known populations, and 450 some-odd were sampled over a number of years, surveyed before this Federal Register report was put out. Only ten viable mini populations seemed to be -- to extend in Georgia.
How can we talk about threats to silviculture and threats to private land ownership when only ten localities are now known in Georgia. There may be a few more, but I doubt many more.
In South Carolina there were 29 known historical localities. I still am trying to get the data out of this, and I may be slightly off on this. But only three are known. The same argument for South Carolina.
Florida had the largest known population, the largest extent of geographic distribution of the salamander. There were 43 historically known sites. Over 500 have been surveyed for a number of years.
About that time I was called here -- something like 30 -- 39 or 40 or 50 -- let's say 50 sites altogether in Florida are known for the flatwoods salamander.
We are talking about less than 100 localities from over 1100 or 1200 ponds that have been sampled extensively.
I'm telling you that's not enough for people to be worried about. Your property rights are not going to be infringed upon.
This animal is suffering. Unfortunately a lot of the speakers have said the truth here, and that is that we do not have an adequate baseline for most of our declining species.
It would be great if we knew how many flatwoods salamander breeding ponds there were, how much longleaf pine and original adult oak land habitat they utilized so we could now measure against that information to see what has happened to it over time. Unfortunately we have only just begun learning about these animals because there haven't been that many biologists in the south.
Impacts have gone on for many, many decades, and the animal has been declining. Only recently have some of us begun understanding that.
I made the original discovery that the species was an early autumn breeder in 1969. I discovered the largest breeding migration known to science in the 1970s, and was intending to do a study over the ensuing 20 years.
I have followed that population in increments of time and discovered that it had dwindled to zero by the mid 1990s. I have a little new data to report because you did call for new data.
The new data are in the last two years I have since used that same four-mile strip of road again, and I report that I have not found a single flatwoods salamander, when in the 1970s over 200 were seen on given nights migrating from longleaf pine uplands to breeding ponds on the other side of the highway.
I have also noted, and I am intending to write this up, that the dwarf salamander, which is not an ecological equivalent of the flatwoods salamander, this is the Eurycea quadridigitata. It has declined abundantly in that site as well. As a matter of fact, that animal use to occur in the literal hundreds, possibly even thousands. It was extremely abundant, so abundant I didn't bother to record numbers because they were too intensive to count.
I have discovered in just this past year I've found five in an area where there could have been five hundred to a thousand in the 1970s. That's one piece of new information.
In the process of studying that information, I published those results, and the only thing I could determine -- and my colleagues who also worked on me with this -- that the likely cause of the decline of the flatwoods salamander in that study area is the only thing that happened on the land nearby, that was the bedded slash pine silviculture happened around the breeding ponds of the salamander.
We do need more studies, and as a research biologist I welcome the opportunity to do those studies. As a matter of fact, all the work I have done in the last 31 years on this animal -- I have lived in Tallahassee since 1968 and been a research biologist after I got my degrees here -- and have studied the flatwoods salamander.
All of my research has been funded out of my own pocket. As a matter of fact, of interest, I have records substantiating that I approached this Southeastern Amphibian Cooperative group many times to be the one to help them do their studies locally because I fancied I was the biologist who might have known more about the location of the striped newt, the local fauna and the flatwoods salamander. And strangely I was never hired to do the work.
One of the large hiatuses in the range of the limestone flatwoods between -- one of the large hiatuses in the distribution, absences of the animal, occurs between the Ochlockonee and Suwannee rivers. That's a limestone flatwood plain where we should expect to find the flatwoods salamander. That's the type of habitat that it utilizes.
No records are known from there, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are not there or at least they historically weren't there.
I just published this month a record of a single migrating adult on Florida Road 59. That animal happened to be straggling out of a planted embedded slash pine plantation on the eastern side of the road into another bedded slash pine plantation on the western side of the road.
Looking for larvae later and looking for other adults was unproductive.
Apparently the species did occur all across the Panhandle. It did occur in that area between the Wacissa and Wakulla Rivers and the Suwannee River, but it looks like I may have found one of the last few animals that substantiated and documented that occurrence.
The thing that has happened in that area is commercial, intensive industrial silviculture.
I'd like to say that the Coastal Plains Institute, which I represent, and have been the president and executive director of for the last -- since 1984 -- we are founded and dedicated to, one, conserving the biodiversity of the coastal plain, all over north Florida and adjacent areas, the native plants and animals therein; and, two, finding ways to integrate timbers and land management with rare and endangered species management.
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We believe it is indeed possible to preserve our natural treasures while at the same time using the land and its resources wisely.
There is no ultimate long-term conflict between timber management and the flatwoods salamander if we learn to manage the land around flatwoods salamander breeding ponds -- not many of them by the way, to reiterate.
We can manage them in wise ways. It is possible, and there are experiments being done in the forestry profession these days, to grow longleaf pine economically.
Longleaf pine is the timber type in which the flatwoods salamander originally lived as an adult. Longleaf pine used to extend over 60 percent of the landscape of the coastal plain from southeastern Virginia to eastern Texas.
That's 60 percent of the landscape, which includes ravines, it would include rivers, bottom lands. It includes marshes and all kinds of wetlands. That was the most abundant habitat in the coastal plain.
Foresters themselves have reported there is much less than 2 percent of that remaining. The principal reason is that slash pine silviculture and other types of silviculture using off-site species has replaced longleaf pine.
The reason that's important in the case of the flatwoods salamander and important to many of the other native plants and animals in the longleaf pine ecosystem is that slash pines are a very different type of tree from longleaf. It can be grown in much denser plantations than longleaf can.
And thereby the ecological condition under a slash pine canopy is extremely different from that of the longleaf. The longleaf is an open canopied forest with a very rich ground cover. In fact, in the eastern United States, the largest number of species of plants are found in the longleaf pine forest, not in the southern Appalachians, not in Louisiana bayou lands, not in the other wetlands, but on longleaf types of environments where the flatwoods salamander lives.
When you alter that and change it to a slash pine plantation, especially when you take into account things such as bedding, wind rowing, and double chopping are utilized, you chop up the ground cover, you alter the environment that many animals and plants are adapted to, and then you put slash pine on the stand.
After about 20 years the canopy creates so much shade that the ground cover is tremendously affected and the animals depending on the ground cover are so affected.
So, it is the opinion of the Coastal Plains Institute and my personal opinion as a research biologist that the flatwoods salamander is indeed in serious trouble, as are many other animals and plants in this ecosystem, and that we must do as much as we can to learn how to manage the little bit of the longleaf ecosystem that we have left to maintain those valuable resources.
It turns out, and here's something else that the folks in this audience need to think about, most all -- and I don't have the numbers, but I'm sure we can get it out of this report of yours because I think it's a fine piece of work -- most of the known sites of the flatwoods salamander today are on publicly owned land, not on private land.
So, the private landowners here do not have a tremendous worry about their land being taken away from them.
I am sorry, I don't know the gentleman who spoke from Union County. I have looked quickly at the range map of the flatwoods salamander. Sir, I'm not even sure you are in the range of the flatwoods salamander, so your concerns are not necessarily warranted.
But in the long run, I'd like for this panel to consider that, in fact, as much emotion as there might be over this issue, it is somewhat misplaced, as it has been in some other cases in the conservation arena in this country. It is misplaced by the unfortunate notion that a commercial activity that many of us have a right to engage in -- and the Institute happens to own land in Liberty and Escambia County. In Liberty County we have a slash pine plantation which we are trying to convert back to longleaf because we think it will be just as economically valuable there.
We believe that there is not nearly as much cause for concern as has been expressed here. This animal is right on the brink of getting to an endangered status. It's well worth considering it because the Endangered Species Act, which was enacted by all the people of the United States of America, says that it ought to be addressed.
I fervently recommend and hope that you follow through with what you propose, and also I call for more research.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Means.
Joe Shiver, please.
MR. SHIVER: My name is Joe Shiver. I work in Live Oak, Florida for Stone Container Corporation, a forest products company, and I also represent the Florida Tree Farm Program. That is a program that recognizes and promotes good forest management practices among nonindustrial private forest landowners.
I think there has been a lot of new comments made tonight, and I don't think I can improve upon them much, so I will be brief.
I don't think anyone in the forestry community, whether it's a forest products company, a forester, a logger or a landowner, has the intention or desire to see a particular species go extinct.
But on the other hand, if we continue to attempt to list every obscure species that someone claims is declining population, we could conceivably get to the point where we can't take a step without causing a negative impact on some endangered species.
In this particular case, my fear is that the people who will suffer most are the small nonindustrial private landowners.
With all due respect to the previous speaker, who says that most small landowners have nothing to fear, if you happen to be one of these few landowners that has a salamander population on your property, it would be a major concern to you.
I think it's ironic that these people are going to be the ones that will suffer because these are the landowners who have kept their lands in the most environmentally friendly land use that they could have possibly chosen and still actually make a little money from their land.
They've been good stewards of the land, presumably in some cases such good stewards that they still have salamander habitats on their property.
And in return for their good stewardship, then they are going to be rewarded with unbearable restrictions on their timber management activities.
As far as I can see, this is clearly a disincentive to maintain lands in a forested condition. And at a time when society is attempting to encourage landowners to maintain their lands in a rural condition, especially in forest land, I don't think we need to be in the business of providing this type of disincentive.
So, I would encourage you to seek an incentive based solution to this problem, if indeed a problem does exist. Thank you very much.
MR. HARRINGTON: Dr. Richard Skinner, please.
MR. SKINNER: I'm Dr. Richard Skinner, from Jacksonville, Florida, a private landowner. I have just a few comments I would like to make.
I would like to point out that according to the Federal Register, the flatwoods salamander is in burrows most of the time, and it's only in the ponds about two months out of the year during breeding time.
So, it is difficult to observe the salamander on an easily determined basis. You have to look for a lot of different ways to find it.
At the present time about 40 percent of the state of Florida is in judicial wetlands. These are protected by State and Federal laws. All of this land has been taken without compensation.
If you fly over the state of Florida, as many of us have, and in the south Georgia area, you will see multitudes of small cypress ponds that very readily stand out, especially in the wintertime.
Even -- the comments so far have indicated and the Federal Register indicates that only a limited number of sites have been studied. Of the 500 sites that were studied, they found approximately 50, which is about 10 percent.
If you would look at all the cypress ponds in the state of Florida, and if you said 10 percent of those ponds have the potential for having a flatwoods salamander, then the amount of land that would be included would be tremendous.
I think that the landowners of the state and the people of the state -- there's only 60 percent of the land in the state of Florida that is not wetlands. If the flatwoods salamander takes off a considerable portion of that, as not being usable but anything but restrictive use, then this removes a considerable portion of the available land in the state of Florida. Thank you.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Clifton Thomas, please. Mr. Thomas? Okay, Dennis Emerson.
MR. EMERSON: Thank you. My name is Dennis Emerson, a small landowner from Alachua, Florida.
I cringe every time that I hear or see the word endangered, threatened or species of critical concern. I cringe because it generally means one more government rule and regulation, more demand and control over private landowners and less ability and flexibility as to what one can do with their own property.
Now, we are talking now, when Congress passed the Endangered Species Act of 1973, it did so without fully addressing the consequences that we know today.
High courts and the Federal government and bureaucrats have proclaimed that the rights of human beings are less important than the rights of plants and animals.
The law also has been used ways that its original sponsors never dreamed or never intended it to be. It's being used as a land use planning tool. It's affecting farming and ranching, logging and other occupations that have made our nation great and is the economic backbone of this nation.
Folks, there's something drastically wrong with a law that's designed to protect the species, but it's, in fact, hastened its destruction because people can't endure the added regulations nor the economic burden that it brings.
Landowners are making decisions that they normally would not otherwise make, such as cutting timber before it comes time or before it becomes full growth just so they won't have the red-cockaded woodpecker or to be listed as a critical habitat.
There just needs to be an additional approach to protecting endangered species. We need an approach that is landowner friendly but seeks cooperation but not coercion, one that rewards landowners for their caring of wildlife and their caring of species habitat and protection rather than penalizing them.
There needs to be an appropriate balance between the needs of the species and the needs of people.
Balance must begin with respect for the private property owners, and the recognition that it costs to recover species must be borne by the public at large.
Now, we are told there is a public interest in protecting these species. I say then let the public help bear the costs.
Don't put it all on the backs of those few who own land who happen to have the species that live there.
As I understand the current law -- and it's been alluded to already -- that any adverse economic impact that's caused by species protection, not only are not considered, but they are expressly ignored.
How can anyone expect the landowners to embrace this type of concept? Nobody wants to see species become extinct, yet at the same time no one wants to see people lose their capacity to produce food or to be without the essential human services.
I suggest that the Federal government go back to the drawing board and come back with some positive
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incentive to enhance recovery of listed species rather than use the current negative enforcement penalties that are now employed.
Secondly, is to require some good science before listing the species. Above all, maintain respect for the private property landowner. Realize that your decisions can and your decisions will impact many, many, many people, their life and their livelihood.
I truly think that if this is done, and done properly, managing endangered species' habitat can and should be a source of pride. If the Federal government can provide good science, credible evidence that salamanders are threatened, apply some realistic practical practices that landowners can go back and they can live with, without undue financial hardship, I think that you will find the landowners will work with you.
You've got to be clear. From what I understand about the flatlands salamander, you have not reached that point yet. Thank you.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Carl Owenby, please.
MR. OWENBY: Good evening. My name is Carl Owenby. I'm accompanied by my son, John back there, who is nine years old or soon to be nine years old. I live in Quincy, Florida.
I'm a nonindustrial member of the Florida Forestry Association and chairman of the Reform Party here in Florida. That's Ross Perot's party, just in case you don't know.
I'm here to speak on behalf of nonindustrial landowners such as myself.
My wife, her two sisters, my sister and I are small private nonindustrial landowners interested in growing trees on our land, on our farm.
My mother's family moved to territorial north Florida in 1828. The farms that we currently operate have been in our family since 1872. That's like 126 years. I hope that my children will one day inherit the land, hopefully not too soon.
In the past 15 years we have planted pines on much of our land, trees, where in the past we had row crops.
We just planted eight acres of longleaf pines. I wrote the check for it today. I'm going to give it to my forester in just a little bit. I've got to question whether or not I've done the right thing in planting these longleaf pines because you all may adversely affect my economic benefit from that.
Not that I was ever planning to live long enough to see the trees mature, but I mean, you know, you are making disincentives to people planting longleaf pines.
These plantings that we have made, if anybody knows anything about tree farming, they are long-term investments. We hope to use ours to provide funds for our children's education, and should we survive that ordeal maybe our retirement. I'm not counting on Social Security to see me through my old age.
I submit that our situation is not unique in the ***rang of the flatwoods salamander. There are thousands of small, nonindustrial tree farmers in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
I encourage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate the social and economic impact on individuals in this area.
I have to tell you that I personally believe that the one-mile radius is a distance that's been determined in an arbitrary, capricious manner.
I think that probably if we were to have converted to the metric system in the '60s somebody might just as well have selected one kilometer for this radius.
I haven't seen the scientific basis behind this thing. I believe that the scientific basis is unsound. I don't think you all have done enough work on that.
I liken this to an observational voyage on a trampoline, then trying to extrapolate that you can figure out how to get from here to Mars. I just don't think that it's a good, sound scientific basis.
This listing and the result of regulation is likely to result in the endangering or extinction of small family tree farmers.
I can tell you from where I sit that if you deny these small landowners economic benefit from their land, they don't have enough money to fight you. What you are going to do is you are going to convert this land into something that some big developer that does have the money out there will buy it. They are going to put a Wal-Mart on it.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Ms. Marilee Gerrell Butler.
MS. BUTLER: My name is Marilee Gerrell Butler. I'm here as a private landowner. I am here as a representative of my family. We own pine trees. I am here as a landowner from Wakulla, Leon and Grady County.
So much has been said -- Mr. Harrington, I should have taken you up when you called me a while ago. I should have taken you up on that.
So much has been said, and it's been so well said, I think everything that I had in my mind has been said in better words than I could say it.
There's been some few things that I disagree with. I tend to take things personally.
When we come to numbers, my family has been in Leon and Wakulla counties since 1827. My grandchildren hopefully will inherit the land that we have taken care of. They are eighth generation.
It's not as if I were not one of the real environmentalists. I'm a tree lover from way back. I love the land. I even get out and walk in the woods by myself just to be there.
I don't want my acres to be turned into concrete. If I can help it, I have no intention of them being turned into concrete. If I can't get something out of what I own, how am I going to pay taxes on what I own? And we do pay taxes.
I had a lot of things that I wanted to say, and as I said, these folks have said it so well that I don't need to go over that.
There is one -- in the little thing with the questions and answers on the second page it says that, "The flatwoods salamander as a threatened species will affect relatively few private landowners."
I don't want to be one of those relatively few private landowners. I don't think any of these people here do either.
Mr. Means, I appreciate what you do. I totally appreciate what you do, but I don't want you managing my pine trees.
We have managed them seven generations. My mother is 88 years old, and nothing does her more good than for us to drive her through the woods.
This is purely a personal thing to me. I don't want to see some little animal -- and I really didn't know that a mud puppy that he used in his little thing out of his tackle box and a flatwoods salamander would be the same thing.
MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE: Basically.
MS. BUTLER: He's the smart one of the family. I am the emotional one. I expect that if we got out and walked in the woods, that our longleaf pine, some slash, some loblolly -- we don't like loblolly -- I expect you could find a lot of logs that you could take the bark off of them and how many thousands of little varmints are under there.
I know this flatlands salamander is important. All these other things are important. Where do we stop? Do we get to a place where we say, well, that little bug is going to wipe out farming as far as silviculture? Can we be reasonable with it?
I want my land to stay as it is. We have been good stewards, and I don't even know how many years it is since 1828 -- 27. We have been good stewards these years. These people who have talked tonight have been good stewards. If they weren't, they wouldn't be here.
As I said, there's been so much else said, so much better than I can say it. I would urge you folks to look at us as people. Look at us who pay taxes. Look at us who love the land. Look at us as people who will work with you.
Don't take away -- don't take away our heritage. Don't take away the very thing, as the young man said, that's made this land great.
I wish my mother could be here tonight. She's 88 years old. She is a marvelous lady. If I had not come for any other reason than to say what I have said, I've done it for her and for my grandchildren. I urge you folks to think about this. Thank you.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: My last card is Mr. Philip Gornicki. Did I botch it too bad?
MR. GORNICKI: No, I'm Philip Gornicki with the -- representing the Florida Forestry Association. I'm going to keep my comments brief. But the Florida Forestry Association is the industry trade organization that represents now about 2,000 members of Florida's forestry community.
Our membership ranges from the owners of small tracts of forested lands to the largest forest products companies and many others involved in all phases of the forestry profession.
While our association recognizes the need to protect species from extinction, we also have the responsibility of protecting the ability of landowners to grow and harvest trees on their land.
The latest statistics from the U.S. Forest Service show that there are approximately 4,800,000 acres of pine flatwoods in Florida, about one-third of that in natural stands.
Given that and the important role these forests play in supporting Florida's $8.6 billion forest products industry, I think you can understand why so many of us are so very interested in your proposal to list the flatwoods salamander as threatened.
You have already heard the concerns and questions of the landowners, land managers and others about this listing proposal, concerns about survey requirements and the ability to pay for biological surveys, about the knowledge of suitable habitat of neighboring properties and related responsibilities there.
What actually constitutes suitable habitat, the need for a one-mile radius protection zone that would encompass over 2,000 acres of land, and prospects for continued management on suitable habitat and so on.
Please keep in mind that the decisions that you make have the potential to affect the lives of the many landowners of this state who depend on their forests for their livelihood.
Taking away the ability to carry on the least intensive, yet economic land use we know, which is forestry, will most certainly bring profound hardships to some.
So, we are asking tonight that you carefully consider all the questions and concerns presented to you as you work through this process, keeping in mind the welfare of Florida's citizens as well as the needs of the flatwoods salamander.
We feel that the forest products industry has made a serious commitment in working with the Fish and Wildlife Service in learning more about the flatwoods salamander.
What we need to do now is work together to avoid the traditional disincentives of having a listed species on private property. Thank you.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: I have used up all of my cards. Is there anyone else who would like to step to the microphone and make a comment? Yes, sir? If you would please identify yourself for the record.
MR. GAINOUS: My name is Craig Gainous. I am a representative of Tenneco Packaging, which is a paper company in -- a paper mill in Clyattville, Georgia, about an hour and a half from here.
I am a forester, I am a family man, and I am a private landowner.
I have a son who is almost three, and if everything goes well, he will be the eighth generation on our property.
Basically I want to be real brief. A lot of comments have been said, a lot of good things.
Mr. Means, you have 31 years of experience, but I question how much time you spent actually in slash plantations that are 30 years of age and older because there isn't much shade, and there is a vast majority of the species represented in the slash pine plantations.
We don't do as a corporation -- our company rotation is probably a 28-year rotation. I welcome you to come along any time and we will look for those
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shaded areas that you are talking about.
We cruise the land intensively, and we manage intensively, and as far as why we plant slash pine, it's about like -- it's technology. You can't stop technology.
We have come to realize that we can turn our land faster and have a better product produced on our property by planting slash pine.
We also plant some loblolly, and we have planted loblolly, longleaf pines in the past.
We as a corporation, meaning the landowners, strongly oppose listing this species as threatened, endangered or for any other purpose that you would like to call it.
I appreciate the time.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Any other people? Yes, sir?
MR. JOHNSON: I'm John Johnson. I am a private landowner as well as a forester.
I think one of the things, the comment I would make, I think you see the concerns of the people here and myself as a landowner. The reason we have the concerns is that we really don't trust you. The situation that has developed that we have seen over in the west, what has happened there, the situations there with the spotted owl and the other things that's happened, we know that it's politically motivated in some ways.
We know that there's a situation that there's one side that wants us to go back as landowners and wear moccasins and throw spears and grow timber like it was, you know, hundreds of years ago. They don't compromise. This side didn't compromise at all.
We know you have pressure from that side as well. So, what we are worried about - and what we don't trust is the things going on.
What we see, and this scares us because we don't think that it is very factual, that the studies that are made are not deep enough. It hasn't involved enough groups and enough people.
So, what we are concerned about is especially the political situations that's involved in these type of things.
(Applause from the audience)
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, sir. I believe we have come to the end of an evening. We have been here for three hours and we have heard -- yes, sir?
MR. GERREL: I would just like to read one thing into the record. I'm Pete Gerrell. I read in the Washington Times, the April 12th edition, of the 1126 species listed in the last 25 years, just 20 are still on the improvements. A mere 11 have recovered enough to be delisted. Thank you.
MR. HARRINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Gerrell. Your comments have been very sincere. They have been very insightful. We appreciate them tremendously.
On behalf of the Department of the Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service, I would like to thank you all very much for your good comments and your composure and your politeness this evening.
Mr. Bowker tells me that he would like to make a couple of comments to wrap things up tonight.
MR. BOWKER: We have heard you tonight. There is no doubt of the concerns.
There is no doubt that the concerns you have expressed are heartfelt. I know you are very sincere. We heard comments last night from some folks over in the Savannah area. We have received written comments from many folks.
I guess I would like to close by commenting on a couple of things I heard tonight. One was from our first speaker I believe, Mr. Mikell, who said something like most of the habitat that supports flatwoods salamanders is privately owned. And if this species is determined to need the protection of the Endangered Species Act, the only way that we are going to achieve that protection is to work with the private landowners.
And Jimmy Bullock later made some comments about a group of timber interests that have been working together with the Fish and Wildlife Service for several years, and he mentioned that he believed that the key in doing something for this species was to continue sitting at the table, exchanging ideas and coming up with something that will work.
So, if the species is listed, that is what we, the Fish and Wildlife Service, intend to do. And I would invite you and welcome you to be participants in that process.
I thank you for coming.
(Applause from the audience)
(Whereupon, the proceedings were concluded at 10:15 p.m.)
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CERTIFICATE OF REPORTER
STATE OF FLORIDA )
I, CATHERINE WILKINSON, Court Reporter, do hereby certify that I was authorized to and did stenographically report the foregoing proceedings; and that the transcript is a true record of the proceedings.
I FURTHER CERTIFY that I am not a relative, employee, attorney or counsel of any of the parties in connection with the action, nor am I financially interested in the action.
Dated this _______ day of April, 1998.