WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Congressman Charlie Stenholm of Texas has proposed amending H.R. 4568, The Interior Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2005, to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from adding additional species to the endangered or threatened species lists until it issues a decision regarding the listing of the Concho water snake on the threatened species list.

“I’m not happy about Congress giving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service more money to add species to the lists until we get a decision one way or another on the Concho Water Snake,” Stenholm said. “I’ve worked for several years to get this snake off the threatened species list, and I’m disappointed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not moved more swiftly on this issue.”

Stenholm withdrew his amendment during the debate on the Interior Appropriations Bill after he secured the support of Congressmen Charles Taylor (R-NC) and Norman Dicks (D-WA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, respectively, to work with the USFWS to delist the snake in a timely manner.

“This little critter has received quite a bit of attention in West Texas. In fact, millions of dollars have been spent studying this snake’s habitat,” Stenholm said. “It’s time for some West Texas tractor-seat common sense to prevail because these snakes sure seem to be doing well out there.”

The Concho Water Snake is found near the Concho and Colorado Rivers, around San Angelo and Big Spring and other communities in West Texas. The snake was added to the threatened species list in 1986 as the Colorado River Municipal Water District was making plans to develop Lake O.H. Ivie. The water district was able to bring the lake online after reconstructing habitat for the snakes along the Colorado River and maintaining stable releases of water from lakes to provide the snakes with substantial water downstream. As a result, the water is released from the lakes regardless of the amount of water in the lakes or drought conditions.

In June of 1998, the Colorado River Municipal Water District submitted a petition to remove the Concho Water Snake from the threatened species list. The following year, 13 months after the petition was filed, Stenholm secured $300,000 for the USFWS to complete its assessment and issue a decision regarding the snake’s threatened status.

“I’m glad Congressmen Taylor and Dicks have agreed to work with me to speed up the Fish and Wildlife Service process. It’s been five years since they received their first appropriation for the study, and now it’s long past the time for them to make a decision,” Stenholm concluded.