SACRAMENTO, Calif.— In response to litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated more than 1.6 million acres of critical habitat for the California red-legged frog in 28 California counties. The designation is three-and-a-half times as large as the Service’s 2006 designation, which the agency acknowledged was flawed because of political interference by the Bush administration.
“With protection of its habitat, the California red-legged frog has a chance at survival,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Today’s designation is a wakeup call to start protecting and restoring California’s wetlands, where the frog was once a very abundant resident.”
In November 2007, under pressure brought by the Center and the media highlighting Interior Department corruption, the Service announced its reversal of six illegal Endangered Species Act decisions, including the California red-legged frog’s 2006 critical habitat designation. The Service listed the red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii) as a threatened species in 1996 and designated 4,140,440 acres of critical habitat in 2001, but in response to a lawsuit by developers, the Service revised critical habitat in 2006 to include just 450,288 acres — a reduction of 90 percent from the original designation.
“Today’s designation restores needed habitat protections for the red-legged frog and provides hope for the recovery of this unique California animal,” Greenwald said. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still has a long way to go to dig itself out of the hole left by the Bush administration’s efforts to deny endangered species protections.”
In 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups filed lawsuits challenging the Service’s refusal to properly designate and protect critical habitat areas for 19 endangered species, including the California red-legged frog. The suits are part of a broader effort by the Center to challenge political corruption that harmed 55 endangered species and denied needed protection to more than 8.5 million acres of wildlife habitat. To date, the Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to reconsider designation of critical habitat for 43 species.
Made famous in the Mark Twain story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” the California red-legged frog has lost more than 70 percent of its historic habitat. Frog populations have declined due to habitat loss from urbanization and the introduction of exotic species such as bullfrogs. The frog is believed to be extinct in the Central Valley and is extirpated from 99 percent of its Sierra Nevada range. Currently, the strongest breeding populations remaining are found along the California coast from San Mateo County to San Luis Obispo County.
The red-legged frog prefers ponds, marshes, and creeks with still water. It requires riparian and upland areas with dense vegetation and open areas for cover, aestivation (summertime hibernation), food, and basking. Undisturbed riparian vegetation is also necessary for female frogs to attach their egg masses, which must float on the water surface for about two weeks in order to hatch.
Background information on the red-legged frog can be found on the Center for Biological Diversity’s Web site at: www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/amphibians/California_red-legged_frog/index.html.
Contact: Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists, dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.