Federal judge reverses frog habitat plan


Associated Press
King 5 News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. A federal judge has formally reversed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife plan to designate more than 4 million acres as critical habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog.

The service will have to re-evaluate a plan developers successfully challenged as flawed.

CA Academy of Sciences
The amphibian is believed to have inspired Mark Twain's short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

In March 2001, the service designated the 4 million acres, but developers challenged increased restrictions that would have covered parts of 28 of the state's 58 counties.

Judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C., approved a proposed settlement in July reversing the decision, but left the protections in place temporarily after conservation groups complained they were left out of negotiations between developers and the service.

Leon approved the settlement Wednesday after a final hearing last month. The decision leaves in place protections on 200,000 acres where the frog exists.

"We'll comply with his decision," said service spokesman Jim Nickles.

Environmental groups criticized what they called "a sweetheart deal" between developers and the service.

"It's a sad day for California's natural heritage," said Earthjustice attorney Mike Sherwood. Earthjustice intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of conservation groups including the Jumping Frog Research Institute.

The groups promised to pressure the service to redesignate a wide area as critical habitat for the frog.

The population of the largest native frog in the western United States has dropped significantly since the 1865 publication of Twain's short story about a frog named "Dan'l Webster" that could "get over more ground in one straddle than any animal of his breed you ever see."

The frog's population range has shrunk 70 percent because of habitat loss and the introduction of new predators.

Read the Court Decision here

California Red-Legged Frog Recovery Plan


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