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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on April 16, 2000 at 07:35:49:
THE BIRMINGHAM NEWS (Alabama) 07 April 00 Students propel amphibian's win (Kim Chandler)
Montgomery - The red hills salamander triumphed where the dusky gopher frog failed.
Maybe that's because the frog didn't have a bunch of third graders behind him.
The Alabama Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a bill naming the red hills salamander as the official state amphibian. The federal government lists the salamander as a threatened spe cies because its habitat is disappearing to timber farming.
The critter got its elevated status after lobbying efforts by third-grade classes from Fairhope Elementary School. Teacher Susan Sims started the class project to help students learn both civics and science.
The state, apparently, has never had a most-favored amphibian before this.
Jordan Chason, 9, said he hopes the distinction will encourage people to protect the salamander.
"No one knew about the salamander. I thought it was going to die, and we saved it," he said.
Students in the classes took a field trip to Montgomery to watch the debate, wearing T shirts bearing the likeness of the creature. No sooner had House members cast their ballots than the pint-sized lobbyist set their sights on Gov. Don Siegelman.
"We want him to sign it," Chason said.
The 10-inch, dark-colored sal amander lives in only a few south Alabama counties. And don't try to tell the students he is not the fairest creature of them all.
"I thought the salamander was totally awesome. It has cool colors - red like my favorite football team, the Crimson Tide," said Jordan Ross, 9.
A few years ago, lawmakers drafted a bill naming the gopher frog as the official amphibian.
"We made up buttons and thought it was funny," said Rep. Blaine Galliher, D-Gadsden. "At that time, the speaker didn't see the humor in it."
The frog's bill died.
So lawmakers couldn't resist saying a few words of homage for the frog before the salamander vote, prompting a few jeers from third-graders seated in the gallery, who assumed their beloved salamander was headed for defeat.
"We did that for them. They got a kick out of it," Galliher said.