Push for state salamander passes Va. House, heads to Senate

The Salamander Savers 4-H Club out of Fairfax is seeking to make the red salamander Virginia’s state salamander.
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — You can probably name Virginia’s state tree and state bird or point out the state flag.
But a group of young naturalists believes we should have a state salamander, too.
Salamander Savers 4-H Club out of Fairfax is making an impression at the State Capitol.
The children and teens inspired HB459. It would make the red salamander Virginia’s state salamander.
And it’s one step closer to reality — the bill successfully passed through the House of Delegates on Monday.
“We just thought that not that many people were aware of the importance of salamanders to the environment,” said Gabriel Kim, 16.
Gabriel said, out of the dozens of salamander species in Virginia, they selected the red salamander because it can be found in many parts of the commonwealth.
His 14-year-old brother, Jonah Kim, started Salamander Savers 4-H Club three years ago in response to the dredging of Woodglen Lake in Fairfax.
“They took out all the fish and they were driving out all the beavers, but they didn’t do anything for the amphibians,” he said.
Since then, the group has grown and members have participated in everything from stream monitoring to salamander surveys.
They have been working with Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax Station) for more than a year on their effort to raise awareness of salamanders. She sponsored the bill.
If it passes, the red salamander will find itself on the state’s official list of emblems and designations — right between a rock and a Shakespeare festival.
“I was very, very impressed with them and actually the rest of my colleagues were as well,” said Filler-Corn.
As part of their push, the salamander supporters visited the Capitol and spoke before a subcommittee.
Brothers Hunter and Graham Snow also helped draw pictures of salamanders for each of the delegates.
The Kims and Snows were in the gallery Monday as delegates voted 96-1 in their favor.
Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) was the only ‘no’ vote.
Filler-Corn hopes their efforts inspire other young people to get involved.
“I told them what was involved and they were undeterred and they were determined to go through the process and get this bill passed,” she said.
They are halfway there.
The bill now heads to the Senate for a vote.