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Federal protections for a rare snake could help preserve some Indiana wetlands

By Rebecca Thiele, IPB News | Published on in Environment, Government, Law, Statewide News
A Kirtland's snake found along a creek in southeastern Indiana, 2009. (Todd Pierson/Flickr)

The Hoosier Environmental Council hopes federal protections for a rare Midwest snake will also help preserve some of Indiana’s wetlands.

The Kirtland’s snake is a small snake with a bright red belly that primarily lives in wet meadows and prairies. It’s endangered or threatened in every state where it lives — mostly due to habitat loss.

As part of a settlement with the HEC and the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to reconsider giving the snake federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.

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David Van Gilder is the Hoosier Environmental Council’s senior policy and legal director. He said there’s no guarantee the snake will get listed, but it’s still a rare victory.

“For them to concede that there is information out there that suggests that this snake really needs to be considered again is a win,” Van Gilder said.

If the snake gets listed, Van Gilder said the listing could help preserve wetlands in Indiana which recently lost significant protections due to changes in state and federal laws.

“Let’s say a home builder decides to build a residential lot that’s going to impact what is designated as critical habitat for these snakes,” he said. “Then there’s a federal law they have to deal with and they won’t be able to do it.”

Van Gilder said the listing would also benefit several other endangered species that rely on wetlands.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has two years to decide whether to give the Kirtland’s snake federal protections.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.