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Archive for Thursday, April 8, 1999

SALAMANDERS HAVE DEFENDERS

April 8, 1999

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One-by-one, 10 fifth-graders from Williamstown Elementary School approached the Douglas County Commission microphone Wednesday night.

Some addressed the commissioners shyly.

Others did so with confidence -- "I've spoken in front of large crowds before," said Michael Shields.

Together, their statements made an organized case for the small mouth salamanders that live in and around the Baker Wetlands and Haskell Indian Nations University.

"Our problem is salamanders are crossing 31st Street to get to the Baker Wetlands to lay their eggs," said Hayley Breitenbach. "They are very tiny and cars are running over them."

It is a problem that would be made worse with the construction of the proposed South Lawrence Trafficway along 31st Street.

"If we expand the road, just think how many salamanders will be killed each year?" Michael asked.

"Our solution is to put in amphibian tunnel," said Matthew Wilbur. "It would help salamanders. It would help frogs and maybe some snakes to cross the street."

"Why should we save salamanders? Because we can," said Rebecca Carlyle.

Not only was the exercise educational for the students, who have studied both the salamanders and governmental process, but it was appreciated by the commissioners themselves, who complimented the students on their organization and brevity.

And it might make a difference.

"I take it pretty seriously," said Commissioner Charles Jones, who did enough research to learn that the tunnels would cost about $76,000. "But no matter who speaks, it has to make sense for you to support what they are proposing."

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is kblackwood@ljworld.com.

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