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Politics Kill 14-Year-Old’s Bill To Name Idaho Giant Salamander as State’s Official Amphibian

Two years ago, Illah Hickman, then a 12-year-old sixth grader sent a proposal to the Idaho State House to designate the Idaho giant salamander (Dicamp

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Two years ago, Illah Hickman, then a 12-year-old sixth grader sent a proposal to the Idaho State House to designate the Idaho giant salamander (Dicamptodon aterrimus) as the official state amphibian. It seemed that her lesson in civics would go over well, as several Republican state senators encouraged her. Then-Sen. Mitch Toryanski even helped her with the bill, and state Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa encouraged her to get her classmates to come and speak in support of it. Well Hickman’s proposal was quashed Jan. 19 by the state’s Republican majority due to what one freshman politician called the potential for federal overreach. 

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12-Year-Old's Proposal To Designate Idaho Giant Salamander The State Amphibian To Get Full Hearing


Idaho Giant Salamander 

According to news reports,  all 10 Republican Idaho state congressmen rejected the idea before it could even come up for a vote on the state’s legislative floor. All six Democrats favored the designation. The reason why the proposal was killed? 

The Republicans in the state house feared that naming the salamander the official state amphibian could lead to federal protections for the salamander, which is currently listed by the IUCN as a species of Least Concern.

“My whole concern is potential federal overreach,” freshman state Rep. Don Cheatham R-Post Falls told the AP.


However, Idaho state wildlife managers, and not the federal government have classified the salamander as vulnerable due to past use of DDT, logging and other human activity. 

“It is a mistake to ever overestimate the ignorance of the Idaho Legislature,” Herpetologist Frank Lundberg told MSNBC.

"I think this has been a lesson in how government should NOT work," Hickman told ReptilesMagazine.com. "People elected to represent the citizens of Idaho should not cast votes based on childhood swimming hole experiences or fear-based opposition. And if legislators have concerns, they should ask me while I am testifying so I can address them, rather than just voting no and not giving a reason. Legislators should vote based on the bill itself and whether it’s good for the people they represent, and not some deal they made to trade for another vote or bill coming up."

Check out the video of Ilah Hickman discussing the merits of the Idaho giant salamander. In the video, Hickman says that she is upset that her bill didn’t pass but said she will be back next year. 


The Idaho giant salamander is the smallest of the "giant salamanders." It grows to about 14 inches in length and weighs about 2.5 ounces. It is the largest terrestrial salamander and lives primarily in Idaho. They can be found in moist forests and streams within the forest as well as in rivers and lakes. An interesting aspect of this species is that they sometimes do not go through metamorphosis, a stage called paedomorphism, but still become sexually mature. 

John B. Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a kingsnake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata