On April 23, I sat next to Gov. Tom Wolf as he signed into law Senate Bill 9, officially designating the Eastern hellbender salamander as Pennsylvania’s first state amphibian. It was a moment of immense pride and hope.
For more than two years my fellow students on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Pennsylvania Student Leadership Council led the charge to focus public attention on the hellbender and water quality issues across the Commonwealth. We worked countless hours with scientists at Lycoming College’s Clean Water Institute to learn more about the hellbender, and countless more hours learning the intricacies of the legislative process. The signing of Senate Bill 9 — legislation that we crafted — was a huge win. But we’re not done yet.
Streams and rivers throughout Pennsylvania are vulnerable to pollution because they lack streamside trees to protect them from runoff. This is bad news for the hellbender, which requires clean and cool water to survive. But it’s also bad news for the rest of us, who depend on clean water for drinking, fishing, and swimming.
As I finish my senior year at Carlisle High School, I am determined to build on our progress and do more for clean water. My hope is that other student leaders across the Commonwealth will be inspired by our work and encouraged that they, too, can make a difference.
Mt. Holly Springs