After many years of hard work, we did it! The bill to make the red salamander Virginia's state salamander was signed by Governor Northam on March 9, 2018. What did it take for us to make this bill happen? 11 children who were passionate about salamanders and determined not to give up. Thanks to all the hard work of the Salamander Savers- Virginia will have a new state emblem in July 2018.
Five members of Salamander Savers waited in the Senate Gallery for HB 459. We have learned so much from this journey and listened to so many Delegates and Senators present bills that they were passionate about. We learned that just being passionate does not make a bill become a law, and sometimes it is hard to find common ground on things that seem to be simple on the surface. Our bill passed through 39-1, and we left the gallery elated. But the next question in our minds was how long before the Governor would sign the bill into law? The session ends on March 9, so it must be sometime before then.
Richmond, VA – Members of Salamander Savers sat in Senate Room 3, waiting for the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology to vote on HB 459. Salamander Savers was joined by representatives from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Virginia Herpetological Society. Delegate Filler-Corn presented the bill that would name the red salamander as the state salamander of Virginia. Before the vote was cast, Senator Black spoke on behalf of Salamander Savers and acknowledged their advocacy efforts. He then produced a photograph of the red salamander, which was given to him by club members earlier that week. After displaying the photograph to his colleagues, Senator Black demanded that they vote in favor of HB 459 because the red salamander was “cute as a button.” The bill passed committee 14-1. Salamander Savers hopes that HB 459 will pass into a law later this week.
Yesterday Salamander Savers 4-H club braved the weather and made it to Richmond. Even though the schedule changed multiple times that day, everyone made the most of being at the Capitol. Senator Black was kind enough to welcome us to the Senate chamber where we watched several bills being voted on and the kids got to learn the process of how a bill becomes a law first hand. We were thrilled that he made his way up to the gallery just to meet us! We wandered into the Old Senate and House Chambers and learned a little bit about the history and it's architect, Thomas Jefferson. Then it was time to lobby in the Senate, asking for support of HB459. Several of our members went room to room searching out Senators and their legislative assistants to tell them about the red salamander. We were fortunate enough to catch Senator Black in the hallway where he answered many of our questions and swapped salamander photos with us. We are truly grateful for all the time that Senator Black gave us and the fantastic stories about the swamps of Florida that he shared with us. It made the day memorable. Finally we were called into the Committee on General Laws and Technology where the kids were able to address the Senators and explain why we feel HB459 should become a law. The Committee will be voting next Monday where we are hoping it will pass and then eventually make it to the Senate floor. We are one step closer!
Members of Salamander Savers watched as the red salamander slipped one step closer to becoming the state salamander of Virginia. Five young environmentalists didn’t stop long to celebrate their victory, instead they walked over to the Senate office buildings and started lobbying for the next round of voting that will happen in the upcoming weeks. Salamander Savers hopes that soon the red salamander will be a state emblem and raise awareness for salamander populations across the state.
We were fortunate to be interviewed by ABC news about the kids efforts to promote the red salamander and their work with the HB459. Evanne Armour was patient with all of our questions and took time to draw out each child's individual experience through the process of promoting the bill. We are so grateful to her for the piece that she did on us because she really did highlight what we thought was the most important part of this legislative process. She helped us give salamanders a spotlight and for that we are truly grateful. Thank you Evanne and ABC news!
Here are some highlights:
Members of Salamander Savers 4-H Club were in Richmond again today to lobby on behalf of the red salamander. Young environmentalists from Fairfax and Williamsburg visited lawmakers asking them to support HB 459 which would name the red salamander the state salamander of Virginia. HB 459 passed the full committee of General Laws today.
Salamander Savers 4-H club has been working diligently over the past year trying to raise awareness for salamanders and their environment. Several members spoke last week at the General Assembly during the subcommittee hearing for the bill. These young naturalists believe that naming a state salamander will help them spread the word about the importance of salamanders across Virginia. The Fairfax Times wrote a nice article on our work this week.
On Thursday, January 25, Salamander Savers visited the VA General Assembly to help defend HB 459 in front of the subcommittee on General Laws. Even though the children were nervous, they did a fantastic job raising awareness for the salamanders that they love. The subcommittee voted and passed the bill, so our next stop is the full committee. Here are some highlights:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 1/15/2018
Salamander Savers 4-H Club Nominates the Red Salamander for the State of Virginia
Delegate Eileen Filler-corn has written HB 459 on behalf of the Salamander Savers 4-H Club to nominate the red salamander as the state salamander of Virginia.
Fairfax, VA Over the last year, Salamander Savers 4-H Club has been asking local lawmakers to help them recognize a state salamander to raise awareness for salamander populations across the state. Virginia is home to 56 different species of salamanders, but Salamander Savers 4-H Club believes the red salamander, pseudotriton ruber, best represents the state of Virginia. The red salamander is widely spread throughout Virginia and inhabits a variety of woodland habitats. Virginia would be the first state to nominate the red salamander as its state salamander.
Jonah Kim, the president of Salamander Savers 4-H Club, started the club with his brothers three years ago in response to the dredging of Woodglen Lake. Since then, Salamander Savers 4-H Club has grown in numbers and has taken part in numerous ecological activities, ranging from stream monitoring to salamander surveys. This year Salamander Savers hopes to see HB 459 pass, which would name the red salamander Virginia’s official state salamander.
Salamander Savers has been working diligently to nominate the red salamander as the state salamander of Virginia; however, Salamander Savers still needs your help. Please call, write, or email your representatives in Richmond and ask them to support HB 459, which names the red salamander as Virginia’s official state salamander. There is a link to find your representatives on our website as well as a sample letter https://savethesalamanders.weebly.com/help-red-salamander.html
About Salamander Savers 4-H Club: Salamander Savers is an ecologically based 4-H group that tries to find solutions to environmental problems. To learn more about Salamander Savers, visit our website at https://savethesalamanders.weebly.com/
Please contact Anna Kim with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
written by Gabriel and Jonah Kim
On a cold, dreary Saturday at Hidden Pond, Salamander Savers made preparations for Salamander Saturday, a public event that focuses on educating the community about salamanders and the environment. Despite the stormy weather, almost forty people attended Salamander Saturday. For our younger guests, we created numerous salamander related games, such as Salamander Mazes and Where do Salamanders Live. We also constructed a number of display boards that contained information about salamanders and the environment. Some of our posters included: Salamanders that Live in Fairfax, What You Can Do to Reduce Pollution, Salamander Life Cycle, Facts about Salamanders, and Wriggling Worms and Slippery Salamanders. Despite the many fantastic display boards we presented at Salamander Saturday, the crown jewel of this event were our two, slimy guests: a marbled salamander and a spotted salamander. These two amphibians enjoyed this rather wet Salamander Saturday and got to meet Delegate Eileen Filler-corn, a member of the Virginia General Assembly. During her stay, Eileen agreed to help Salamander Savers in advocating for the Shenandoah Salamander as the state amphibian of Virginia, a group project that was started last January. Even though the weather was dreary, Salamander Saturday was a great success for our group, and we look forward to nominating the Shenandoah Salamander as the state amphibian of Virginia.
by Jonah Kim
Did you know that the Shenandoah salamander can breathe through its skin?! The Shenandoah salamander is part of the family Plethodon, which is a group of salamanders (lungless salamanders) that breathe though their skin. However, in order to have successful respiration these salamanders must have moist skin.
Did you know the Shenandoah salamander can eat anything that fits into its mouth? Its diet ranges to miniature ants to humongous earthworms. It also eats common pests, such as malicious mosquitoes, slimy slugs, and grimy grubs. The only thing that limits the Shenandoah salamander's diet is the size of its mouth since the salamander is only 7-10 cm. in length!
The Shenandoah salamander only lives inside Virginia, no where else! The Shenandoah salamander (Plethodon shenandoah) is an endangered salamander that only lives inside Virginia, Shenandoah Nation Park on three mountaintops. This salamander prefers cool and moist environments high in the mountains.
How long have salamanders been around? Due to extensive research, scientists have found out that salamanders evolved around 200 million years ago!!! Modern day humans have only evolved about 200,000 years ago!
How does the Shenandoah salamander help the environment? This salamander helps the environment by eating pests, soil aeration by burrowing, and helping decompose the forest floor.
Salamander Savers petition, Salamander Savers is trying to nominate the Shenandoah salamander the state amphibian of Virginia. We would appreciate your support for nominating this salamander. Here is a link to our website and petition. Http://savethesalamanders.weebly.com/