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Missouri's Eastern Hellbender Salamanders Granted Federal Protection

A sub-species of salamander is now receiving federal protection.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the Eastern hellbenders sub-species of salamanders in Missouri as endangered.

The federal protection comes from the Endangered Species Act.

The act has been in effect since 1973, and its purpose is to help protect and increase populations of species that are in danger of becoming extinct.

A second sub-species – the Ozark hellbenders – have been under this designation since 2011.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all five populations of the Missouri Distinct Populations of eastern hellbender are not healthy.

One of the populations is considered not viable anymore because of how low its numbers are.

Trisha Crabill is a fish and wildlife biologist in the Missouri Field Office of the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service.

Crabill said the listing helps the sub-species become eligible for more funding.

“And more funding through different programs. And then also we’ve put more emphasis on it because we developed a recovery plan,” said Crabill.

The recovery plan includes efforts to minimize developments and impacts on the range in which the species lives.

There is also propagation in captivity that can help breed more of the species away from the wild to help the populations.

Federal protection allows for there to be minimized impact on the species range.

“There’s more motivation to not impact the species because if you are going to impact the species, then you have to go through a formal consultation process,” said Crabill.

Federal protection helps the lessen direct impacts from projects like developments that may occur in their habitat.

Infringing on their natural habitats will be harder to do.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the species could become extinct in around 20 years.