Ilah Hickman, 13, told the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning that since the print hearing on her bill to make the Idaho giant salamander the designated state amphibian, she’s done additional research at the suggestion of Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis. She catalogued for the committee all 15 amphibians that are native to Idaho, and the reasons why they wouldn’t make as suitable symbols for the state: Five already are symbols for other states, others are common frogs or toad that live in many places, including other countries. “That left the Coeur d’Alene salamander and the Idaho giant salamander,” Ilah said. “The Coeur d’Alene salamander lives equally in Idaho and Montana. … And even though I think Coeur d’Alene is a beautiful city, we’re not the State of Coeur d’Alene. … I decided that the Idaho giant salamander was the best candidate to represent our state.” She said, “It makes its home almost exclusively in Idaho, and in an area where so many Idahoans love to be outdoors.”
Ilah said since the print hearing for the bill, “likes” on her Facebook page for the bill have grown from 365 to 462, and a survey of her fellow earth science students showed a large majority in support of the bill. “I have already learned percentages in math, and according to my calculations, 87 percent of the earth science students are in support of this bill,” she told the senators. She delivered 115 letters from fellow students about the bill to lawmakers.
Davis told Ilah, “I’ve seen a lot of very capable people come with some very compelling legislation. Yours, however, is as well done as I’ve heard, including from professionals.” Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said, “I wish that you had the opportunity to present this to the floor of the Senate, because I don’t think any of us could adequately do it justice.”
Herpetologist Frank Lundburg told the committee that Ilah’s presentation was right on. “The Idaho giant salamander is unique to Idaho,” he said, and is not threatened or endangered. “It is the largest salamander in Idaho, reaching up to 13 inches in length. … It lives in forests and under rocks and in streams. … It says something good about Idaho, something positive we can all agree on.”