WASHINGTON (CN) – The Oregon spotted frog, first identified as a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act in 1993, has a critical habitat designation after a 23-year wait. The frogs were listed as a threatened species under the act in Aug. 2014 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and at the time, the agency said it would act on the habitat designation that fall. Under the ESA, critical habitat is to be designated within one year of listing a species, unless it is not prudent or determinable, or is not within the agency’s jurisdiction, as is the case with many foreign species.
In 1993, the Service identified the frogs as a candidate species, but did not take further action due to “higher listing priorities.” The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) conservation group, a frequent petitioner and litigant on behalf of imperiled species, petitioned the agency to list the frogs in 2004, but it was not until a 2011 court settlement between the agency and the CBD initiated a multi-year workplan for clearing the backlog of listing actions that the frogs’ decades-long wait for protection finally saw action.
The Oregon spotted frog must have access to water throughout all of its life stages, unlike some other frogs that have distinct water and land phases. According to the listing proposal, up to 90 percent of the frogs’ wetland range has been lost to conversion to other uses or been degraded by poor water quality and invasive non-native species.
“The Oregon spotted frog faces a variety of threats, from loss of habitat and invasive species to reduced water quality and availability during critical times in their life cycle,” Eric Rickerson, the Service’s Washington State Supervisor, said. “The designation of critical habitat in the states of Washington and Oregon allows the Service to continue to work collaboratively to address these threats in diverse habitat types across the frog’s range.”
The agency designated 65,038 acres and 20.3 river miles of critical habitat for the frogs in 14 units in five counties in Washington and five counties in Oregon, according to the action. The frogs were once abundant from British Columbia to California. The final designation covers 3,463 fewer acres than was initially proposed in 2013 because those areas have management plans or conservation agreements in place.
“This important habitat protection is good news for Oregon spotted frogs and for future generations because we can’t save endangered species without protecting their homes,” Tierra Curry, a CBD senior scientist, said. “Protecting this critical habitat will not only benefit the frogs but will also improve the health of wetlands and rivers that benefit millions of people and a host of other wildlife species. Amphibians have been on the planet for millions of years, and when they start dying off it’s a wakeup call that we need to take better care of our resources.
“The final designation is effective June 10.
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