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Little Frog Has|Big Problems

WASHINGTON (CN) - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managers are giving the public more time to comment on whether the leopard frog, which lives in 19 western states, needs protection under the Endangered Species Act.

In June the USFWS said that the threat posed by expanding use of pesticides, competition from invading bullfrogs, nonnative diseases, and loss of wetlands, led it to conclude that western populations of the northern leopard frog may warrant listing. The agency originally had given 60 days for public input but has decided to extend the deadline to November 27, 2009.

The decline of the western leopard frog is only the most recent example in the global decline of amphibian populations. "Western leopard frogs are the canary in the coal mine for our water quality across a large part of the country," said Erin Robertson, senior staff biologist for the Center for Native Ecosystems. "When these frogs are at risk of extinction, we should be alarmed about the state of our wetlands and waterways."

There have been widespread reports of western leopard frogs with deformed limbs and bodies, including extra limbs. Environmental groups believe the deformities are linked to pesticide use and noted in the petition that in 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that more than 50 percent of streams, lakes, and ponds in California, Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, and South Dakota failed to meet state water quality standards, and that study by the U.S. Geological Survey reported harmful levels of pesticide contamination in 87 percent of streams dominated by urban runoff and 57 percent of streams dominated by agricultural runoff.

The listing petition was submitted to the USFWS in June, 2006 by eight environmental groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity. The petition noted that in addition to filling a significant spot in the food chain, "The northern leopard frog has proven invaluable for medical research with enzymes found in the frog's body currently in clinical trials for use as a cancer treatment," according to Noah Greenwald, Biodiversity Program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Yet, today, the frog itself is severely endangered by a combination of habitat destruction, pollution, and invasive species."


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