Zilker Park could see more environmental protections if the Austin Blind Salamander is added to the endangered species list. Portions of the park would become "critical habitat", which would require the city to get approval from the Fish and Wildlife department for certain projects, Statesman.com reports.
The designation shouldn't cause any problems for the city, as they already included the Austin Blind salamander in their habitat conversation plan in case it was added to the endangered species list. The city wanted to be sure they'd covered all their bases and would still be able to keep Barton Springs Pool and Zilker Park open to the public for recreation use.
Currently, Austin's Parks and Recreation Department gets very few federal grants and none are for work in Zilker Park. Austin is currently trying to get even more land listed as critical habitat, in sharp contrast to officials in Williamson County, who have fought fiercely against the endangered species listing for the four salamander species, including the Austin Blind. Williamson County officials are concerned that the endangered species listing would prevent development in their area.
Fish and Wildlife are set to put out an economic impact analysis in 2013, which will include how they predict the critical habitat designations would impact area economies. After the report is released, there will be a public comment period followed by a final decision by August 21, 2013.