For those constituents who think government isn't listening to the people, Rep. Rich Jarvis, R-Meridian, might prove otherwise. Jarvis is sponsoring House Bill 389, which would make the Idaho Giant Salamander(dicmaptodon aterrimus) the official state amphibian. The reason behind the move? Some fourth and fifth grade classes from Boise asked him to do it.
Classes from the Christian Calvary School in Boise appealed to several legislators asking for the designation. Jarvis agreed to sponsor the bill. The bill has been introduced into the House and will be heard before the House Ways and Means Committee, which makes Jarvis believe the death of the legislation is imminent.
"They look at it as a frivolous bill," said Jarvis "Unless there's some up swell of activity...there has to be that kind of activity for the House to take time and do that."
The Idaho Giant Salamander can reach a maximum length of 12 inches and are found only in central Idaho and a small corner of Montana. They typically inhabit cold, clear lakes, ponds, and streams and adults have been known to feed on small mice, shrews, or snakes.
Several states have official state amphibians, including Washington, New Mexico, and Arizona in the western United States. As far as salamanders for on the list, the Idaho Giant would join the Spotted, of South Carolina, and the Barred Tiger, of Kansas varieties on the list, among others. The list also includes several different frog varieties and a newt from New Hampshire.
To the best of Jarvis' knowledge, this is the first attempt from a state legislator to add a state amphibian to the list of officially recognized Idaho trademarks. Should the legislation pass, it would have no impact on the state general fund. Though it would be recognized by the state, the Idaho Giant Salamander would be given no environmental protections as a result of the legislation. The only change enacted by legislation would be to add the salamander to the Idaho Blue Book, which is published by the secretary of state and lists statistical and historical facts about Idaho. And though it doesn't currently have a listing for amphibians, the state does officially recognize a state flower (syringa), fruit (wild huckleberry), gem (star garnet), and even a state dance (square dance).
So why did Jarvis agree to sponsor the bill?
"Myself, I think it's really cool," said Jarvis. "Because it's... indigenous to Idaho and it's a giant!"
He acknowledged, during his interview with IdahoReporter.com, that other legislators are not as fond of the proposal as he is and disclosed that other legislators informed him he will lose "political capital" for pushing the measure forward. "I'm not too worried about that," laughed Jarvis.
The committee has yet to set a hearing date for the proposal.