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Senate Resources unanimously backs HB 1, the salamander bill

Ilah Hickman

The Senate Resources Committee has voted unanimously in favor of HB 1, the bill to designate the Idaho giant salamander as the state amphibian. The sponsor, 14-year-old Ilah Hickman – who’s pushed for the bill for the past five years – skipped her family’s spring break trip to the Oregon Coast to present the bill to the committee today.

“In January of this year, a 4th grade teacher invited me to her classroom to talk about state symbols, this bill and the Idaho giant salamander,” Ilah told the committee. “We discussed that the salamander is secretive and slimy, indigenous but not endangered, and can do cool things like regenerate its appendages if it loses them.” She said, “I believe that designating the Idaho giant salamander as a state symbol … will be one more way that we can engage the children in civic and science activities.”

Others also backed the bill. “Amphibians are one part of the natural heritage of Idaho that makes the state such a wondrous place to live,” herpetologist Frank Lundberg told the committee. “It says something I think good about our state. It says something that we care about the things that are unique to Idaho.”

Ilah said the Idaho giant salamander is the only one of Idaho’s amphibians that resides almost exclusively in the state.

“I just wanted to point out how much I admire Miss Hickman for having the tenacity,” said Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum. “She had one heck of a civics lesson. I honor your efforts and all that you’ve taught us, and thank you for having brought this to us.”

 “I have about 3 grandsons over on the Oregon Coast this week for spring break and I feel badly that Miss Hickman is not there with them,” said Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls. “She gave up a trip to the Oregon coast to be here with us. I admire her and I support this 100 percent.”

After the bill passed unanimously, senators gathered around Ilah to shake her hand and congratulate her. Asked her thoughts, she said, “I hope that we still have enough time for it, and that it will pass.” Heider, shaking Ilah’s hand, assured her that there’s plenty of time. Last year, the bill passed the Senate with just two "no" votes, but didn't get a hearing in the House; this year, it was killed early on by a House committee, then revived last week and passed in the full House. Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, who cast one of the two "no" votes last year, missed the vote in committee this afternoon.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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