Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New Critical Habitat for Red-Legged Frog

By Phil Marshall
Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 11:27 AM

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated more than 1.6 million acres of critical habitat for the California red-legged frog in 28 California counties. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the “population has declined by at least 90 percent, and the frog is gone from 70 percent of its former range — only four areas now harbor more than 350 adult red-legged frogs.”

The Bay Area supports numerous populations of red-legged frogs including several in Eastern Contra Costa County and Alameda County. Although development can still occur in areas that have been listed as critical habitat, federal agencies must make extra efforts to protect the features of an area that are pertinent to the species, including space for population growth, breeding, and feeding.

The red-legged frog was already granted threatened species status in 1996 and given 4,140,440 acres of critical habitat in 2001, but the Fish and Wildlife Service was forced to revise its critical habitat to just 450,288 acres in 2006 following pressure from developers.

But a 2007 lawsuit filed by several groups including the Center for Biological Diversity contended that the Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t properly designate and protect habitat areas for the red-legged frog and eighteen other species. According to the Associated Press, “after an investigation found that a Bush administration Interior Department official pressured government scientists to alter the findings, the biologists had to start over.”

The revised designation is three-and-a-half times as large as the Fish and Wildlife Service's 2006 ruling.

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