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California red-legged frog
Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2010

Endangered California red-legged frog to receive large new protected habitat area -- finally
By Lindsay Barnett

It's a good-news day for the endangered California red-legged frog, an amphibian that reached new heights of celebrity with the publication of Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" in 1867.

Despite the frog's fame, it's proved difficult to protect its habitat, which has been imperiled by land development. Two previous attempts to designate critical habitat for the species have failed, the first because of a 2001 lawsuit from developers. Failure of the second was related to an investigation that determined that a Bush Administration Interior Department official had pressured scientists to alter their findings. (The official, Julie MacDonald, later resigned.)

Now, it looks as if the frog will finally receive the critical habitat after all -- about 1.6 million acres of it, including land in nearly half of the state's 58 counties. "It's not common to do this three times, but this is an icon species for California," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Al Donner told the Associated Press. The new critical habitat designation is to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register.

"With protection of its habitat, the California red-legged frog has a chance at survival," Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. But Greenwald apparently couldn't resist getting in a dig at former president Bush's environmental policies, adding that the fish and wildlife department "still has a long way to go to dig itself out of the hole left by the Bush administration's efforts to deny endangered species protections."

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton