WASHINGTON (CN) – “The most aquatic native frog in the Pacific Northwest,” the Oregon spotted frog, has been proposed for threatened listing status under the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency also proposed 68,000 acres and 24 stream miles of critical habitat for the frogs in Washington and Oregon in a separate action.
“The frog’s historic range has been reduced by at least 76 percent and maybe as much as 90 percent, and habitat continues to be impacted and/or destroyed by human activities that result in the loss of wetlands, hydrologic changes, reduced water quality, and vegetation changes,” according to the agency’s statement.
The frogs also face threats from non-native species. “Non-native plant invasions by such aggressive species as reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea), and succession of plant communities from marsh to meadow also threaten this species’ existence. Introductions of bullfrogs and non-native fishes have affected this species both directly, by eating them, and indirectly, by outcompeting or displacing them from their habitat,” the agency’s fact sheet noted.
Historically, the frogs were found in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California. They are currently believed to be locally extinct in California and are found only in the “extreme southwestern” part of British Columbia. The current range through Washington and Oregon is significantly reduced, and consists of small isolated populations that make the frogs more vulnerable to natural events like drought.
The agency determined that the frogs warranted listing status in 1993, but further action was precluded by higher listing priorities. The current listing proposal is part of the 2011 settlement agreement between the USFWS and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and other conservation groups that resulted in a five-year work plan to speed listing decisions for hundreds of species across the country.
The frogs grow to a maximum of four inches long, and have been known to live for up to seven years, the action noted. The frogs are named for the ragged black spots on their heads, backs and sides. Young frogs are usually brown or olive green, maturing into a deep reddish color with age, with the underlegs becoming a vivid reddish-orange.
The frogs lay their eggs in shallow water, often temporary pools that have been used for successive years. The shallow water is warm, which “hastens egg development,” but also poses a threat of high mortality due to “desiccation or freezing,” the action said.
“Protecting the Oregon spotted frog will have real benefits for people because the wetland habitats needed by the frog prevent flooding, clean our water and provide habitat for a wide diversity of fish and wildlife,” Noah Greenwald, the CBD’s endangered species director was quoted as saying in the group’s statement.
The proposed critical habitat is 67 percent federally owned, 3 percent state owned, and 30 percent under local municipal or private ownership.
“Aquatic species are good indicators of our water quality and wetland health, and because the Oregon spotted frog is the most aquatic native frog in the Pacific Northwest, it is particularly important that we pay attention to its plight,” Ken Berg, manager of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, was quoted as saying in the agency’s press release.
Comments and information in response to both actions are due by Oct. 28. Public hearing requests must be submitted in writing by Oct. 15.
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