Feds set critical habitat for spotted frog

May 10, 2016
Feds set critical habitat for spotted frog

The Oregon spotted frog has some designated home territory.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday set critical habitat areas in Oregon and Washington for the animal. The service listed the frog as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2014.

The act defines critical habitat as areas vital for listed species’ long-term survival. The final designation of the frog’s habitat covers about 65,038 acres and about 20 river miles. It consists of Deschutes, Jackson, Klamath, Lane and Wasco counties in Oregon and Klickitat, Skagit, Skamania, Thurston and Whatcom counties in Washington.

“Now we know where the most important areas are to focus on,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Supervisor Bridget Moran.

In the Deschutes Basin, most of the designated area falls on public land. The designation means agencies doing projects on those sites would need to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service on potential impacts to the frog — adding another layer of environmental analysis. The designation would not impact private lands in the frogs’ habitat unless those landowners seek federal permits for projects on those sites.

The designation finalizes habitat the agency had proposed earlier, with some changes. The final total acreage is about 3,463 acres less than the agency had previously proposed. The service said those private and county lands already have final management and conservation plans to provide a conservation benefit for the species.

The USFWS said it is working with local irrigation districts and federal and state agencies to address water-management challenges and to craft a conservation plan.

“The wetland ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest, including those of the Upper Deschutes Basin of Central Oregon, are vital to humans, the Oregon spotted frog and other wildlife,” Paul Henson, USFWS Oregon state supervisor, said in a news release. “The Deschutes River is renowned for its clean water and recreational opportunities, while also being economically important to the local community.”

Henson said the service seeks solutions that conserve and recover fish and wildlife resources while also supporting the local recreational and agricultural economy.

The Center for Biological Diversity hailed the move.

“It’s fantastic that it’s finally going to get the protection it needs,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the center, emphasizing that saving a species requires saving its home.

Curry was still reviewing whether the move had any impact on the group’s lawsuit over the frog. The center, along with WaterWatch of Oregon, is suing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and irrigation districts in federal court, saying the operation of dams on the Deschutes River has harmed the frog.

In a news release, however, the center added that the frog was protected as a threatened species in 2014 after 23 years on the waiting list.

“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,” Curry said in the news release.

Threats to the frog include loss of wetland habitat, reduced water quality, river flow management, vegetation changes and competition from nonnative species such as bull frogs. The frog’s historic range stretches from British Columbia to northeastern California. It is now found in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon but is no longer found in California.

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