Idaho giant salamander gets House OK as state amphibian

BOISE – After five years of trying, a Boise eighth-grader got her bill through the Idaho House on Monday to designate the Idaho giant salamander as the state amphibian.

The 51-17 vote in favor of HB 1 sends the measure to the Senate – where it passed overwhelmingly last year. Eighth-grader Ilah Hickman, accompanied by her parents, proudly watched the debate and vote from the House gallery.

Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, told the House, “The Idaho giant salamander may be of little consequence to adults, but to a 9-year-old child, it’s a big deal. … It stirs the imagination of little children.”

There was no debate against the bill, despite the 17 “no” votes. If HB 1 now passes the Senate and receives the governor’s signature, the Idaho giant salamander would join the mountain bluebird, the Appaloosa horse, the monarch butterfly, the cutthroat trout, the huckleberry and others among Idaho’s official state symbols.

Just one week into this year’s legislative session, the House State Affairs Committee held a hearing on Ilah’s bill and killed it, with some members, including new Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, saying they were concerned about “federal overreach.”

The committee reconsidered last week, and Cheatham said he’d learned that designating a state amphibian wouldn’t play into water litigation in North Idaho or have federal-law implications.

He voted in favor of HB 1 on Monday, and offered Ilah his congratulations.

“No” votes in the House included North Idaho Reps. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton; Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene; and Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene. Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, missed the vote.