For a number of years I taught nature programs to children at the Wildlands Conservancy/Pool Wildlife Sanctuary in Emmaus, Pennsylvania as well as at various parks throughout the Lehigh Valley.

The following information comes from Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society (PRPS)

The PA Senate passed SB 9 yesterday, which would designate the Eastern Hellbender as Pennsylvania’s official state amphibian.

Hellbenders are North America’s largest salamander and survive where there is cold, clear, swift-running water. Growing to over two feet in length and weighing more than four pounds, they breathe oxygen from the water through their skin.

A lack of streamside trees along Commonwealth waterways allows waters to warm, polluted runoff to enter rivers and streams, and silt to build up in streambeds. As a result, habitat for hellbenders has been degraded and hellbender numbers have been decimated in Pennsylvania streams where they were plentiful as recently as 1990.

Passing Senate Bill 9 is a good indicator that people are becoming more aware of how important clean water is. With its passage, focus on efforts to designate the hellbender as Pennsylvania’s official state amphibian now shifts to the State House.