For Immediate Release, September 26, 2011
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Mississippi Gopher Frog to Get Big Jump in Protected Critical Habitat
Jackson, Miss.— In response to comments from the Center for Biological Diversity, scientific peer review and others, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued a revised proposal for protected critical habitat for the endangered Mississippi gopher frog, increasing a 2010 proposal of 1,957 acres by more than threefold, to 7,015 acres. The critical habitat includes areas in both Mississippi and Louisiana and stems from a 2007 lawsuit brought by the Center.
“With today’s proposed designation of critical habitat, the Mississippi gopher frog has a shot at survival,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “There’s only one viable population of these gopher frogs left in the world. Without habitat protection and restoration, the Mississippi gopher frog will be lost forever.”
The Mississippi gopher frog was protected as an endangered species in 2001. Before it was protected, a large area very near to Glen’s Pond, where the last known viable population occurs, was clearcut, disked and sold for development by International Paper. Subsequently, a proposal was developed to build a town called “Tradition” with as many as 35,000 people. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initially proposed a 350-meter buffer around the pond where development could not occur, which was then incorporated into the agency’s first proposed designation of critical habitat. In response to comments from scientists and the Center, which noted that the buffer was too small and failed to incorporate scientific information on the frogs’ movement, the Fish and Wildlife Service has now increased the buffer to 650 meters.
“The Mississippi gopher frog clearly needs more space to survive,” said Greenwald. “We’re hopeful that a solution can be worked out that provides needed habitat for the gopher frog.”
On April 28, 2010, the Center and Gulf Restoration Network sent a formal notice of intent to sue to the Mississippi Development Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over funding and approval of construction of a sewage-treatment plant and sewage line to service Tradition. Following submission of the notice, the groups entered talks with the state of Mississippi and are hopeful a solution can be reached.
“Today’s designation clarifies where development shouldn’t occur, giving essential information to all parties concerned with saving this unique frog from extinction,” said Greenwald.