Greens See Red in Fight for Yellow-Legged Frog

     LOS ANGELES (CN) - California's mountain yellow-legged frog is threatened with extinction because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is avoiding its obligations to protect the species, the Center for Biological Diversity claims in court.
     The Tucson-based environmental group asked a federal judge to order the Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a recovery plan for the frog under the Endangered Species Act.
     The frog has all but disappeared from Southern California, with nine small populations restricted to the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests. How many frogs remain is a matter of debate. But the wildlife service determined in the 1990s that fewer than 100 frogs remain in remote headwater streams, the center says.
     The frog is threatened by fish, wildfires, floods, toxins and illegal marijuana cultivation. Fish and Wildlife has spent more than a decade developing a plan to save the frog but never completed it, the environmentalists claim.
     Under Fish and Wildlife policy, the agency must create a recovery plan within 2½ years after a species is listed as endangered. The yellow-legged frog has been listed for more than 11 years, according to the lawsuit.
     "A recovery plan is a roadmap to how an endangered animal or plant species can eventually be secure from the risk of extinction and removed from the endangered species list," the 14-page complaint states.
     "Without a concrete plan for recovery, these increasingly rare frogs are vulnerable to threats like exotic predators and habitat destruction," Collette Giese, a Center attorney and biologist, said in a statement. "In the 12 years they have been waiting for a recovery plan, Southern California mountain yellow-legged frogs have continued to slide toward the brink of extinction."
     The Center for Biological Diversity seeks declaratory judgment that Fish and Wildlife violated the Endangered Species and Administrative Procedure Acts, failed in its duty to develop the plan, and wants it ordered to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
     Named defendants are Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its Director Dan Ashe.
     The Center for Biological Diversity is represented by staff attorney John Buse in San Francisco.