Extreme Habitat Loss Threatens Oregon Frog

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Oregon spotted frog as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, Friday. The agency did not act on the critical habitat designation of 68,000 acres and 24 stream miles of critical habitat originally proposed in an action last year, but has said it will act on the designation this fall.
     “The Oregon spotted frog has disappeared from up to 90 percent of its range, mostly due to loss and degradation of wetland habitat. Changes to the hydrology and introduced nonnative species also have impacted this frog by reducing its available habitat,” the USFWS said in its press release about the listing.
     The frogs face predation by non-native fish and bullfrogs, and competition from non-native plants such as reed canarygrass. The succession of plants from marsh to meadow habitats, often due to drainage of wetlands for conversion to other uses, is another threat to the spotted frogs.
     The USFWS identified the frogs as listing candidates in 1993, but higher listing priorities stalled further action. In 2011, the agency reached a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), its most frequent litigant, and a five-year workplan was initiated to speed listing decisions for hundreds of species across the country. The final listing for the Oregon spotted frog was spurred by this agreement.
     “Now that the Oregon spotted frog is protected, we can begin the difficult job of recovering them to more of their historic habitat,” Noah Greenwald, endangered species director of the CBD, was quoted as saying in the group’s statement. “The calls of spotted frogs sound like woodpeckers, though they’re often delivered underwater. And they’re just as much a part of our Pacific Northwest heritage as the bugling of Roosevelt elk or the hooting of spotted owls. It would be thrilling if we could again hear these frogs in Portland, Seattle and so many other places they once called home.”
     The species’ historic range extended from British Columbia to the Pit River basin in northeastern California. They are currently believed to be locally extinct in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and throughout California, with the surviving 13 out of 61 known populations considered to be small and vulnerable to severe threats.
     There have been large historical losses of wetlands of up to 85 percent across the species’ range through land conversion that has contributed to the fragmentation of the remaining populations. Some of these threats continue due to the ongoing construction of dams, livestock grazing, agricultural encroachment, and commercial and residential development, according to the action.
     “This unique and highly aquatic frog was once common in the Pacific Northwest and its decline signals degradation in the health of natural areas that provide for people as well as fish and wildlife,” Tom McDowell, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office Acting Supervisor was quoted as saying in the agency’s statement. “Our ongoing work with partners to conserve and restore Oregon spotted frog habitat means improvements to our land and water that will benefit many other species and provide for a healthy environment for future generations.”
     The listing is effective Sept. 29, 2014.

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