Wisdom From Our Kids: The Birth of a State Amphibian

Congratulations, Ilah Hickman! Idaho has an official state amphibian and she is called the Idaho Giant Salamander.

Years of tenacity and smarts paid off for 8th grade student Ilah Hickman’s quest to have the Idaho Giant Salamander declared Idaho’s state amphibian.

What started as a 4th grade research project ignited Hickman’s passion for learning and she reminded the Idaho Legislature just how tenacious a young person with a cause can be. Idaho Democratic lawmakers backed this student the whole time–it’s a basic value for us to support our children’s education and listen to our constituents. Hickman has become a role model for youthful engagement in public discourse and for taking ownership of her education.

Hickman tread a rocky path.

House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loerschter blocked her a year ago because he just didn’t think this young Idahoan’s effort rose to a level of importance for someone in such a lofty perch of power to pay attention to. Thanks to many Idahoans, Loerschter allowed the bill this year. However, even though Hickman produced one of the finest presentations this Legislature has even seen, Republican politicians dismissed her with alarmist rhetoric about the danger creating a special class of critter and with such thoughtful arguments as: salamanders are “creepy.” (Re: Mean and Out of Touch, State Affairs Kills Student Bill).

The sorry episode sparked the most memorable quote of the session from an expert witness who testified on behalf of Hickman’s effort:

“It is a mistake to ever overestimate the ignorance of the Idaho Legislature,” said Herpetologist Prof. Frank Lundbergy.

State affairs committee heads reversed course and reconsidered the bill a week ago. The Senate, which endorsed the effort in 2014, raced the bill through. Governor Otter signed the bill into law Friday.

Speaking on behalf of the legislators, it has been an honor having you in the Legislature, Miss Hickman. You aren’t just a role model for your peers, you are role model for legislators and all of Idaho’s citizens. May we all aspire to achieve the same high level of excellence that you have shown us is possible.

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