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Updated: March 6, 2001 - 2:46 p.m.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tuesday designated 4.1 million acres in 28 California counties as critical habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog.

This native amphibian is widely believed to have inspired Mark Twain's fabled short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

About 32 percent of the 4.1 million acres designated are in public ownership and managed by either federal, state or local government entities. The remainder of the acreage is in private ownership.

Tuesday's action was in response to a federal court order.

In the Sacramento area, the designation includes nearly 80,000 acres in El Dorado County and the El Dorado National Forest as critical habitat for the frog. Of that acreage, approximately 46 percent is within the national forest and managed by the federal government. Most of the remainder is in private ownership.

The other lands are located in the following counties: Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Marin, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Plumas, Riverside, San Benito, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Tuolumne and Ventura.

The move is controversial in that critics say it will add to development costs. Opponents say the new restrictions will hike the cost of housing and other construction by requiring more permitting and review before land can be developed.

However, the Fish and Wildlife Service has said there are economic benefits. The agency also said critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and has no effect on landowners taking land actions that do not involve federal funding or permits.

According to an economic analysis for the Fish and Wildlife Service, potential costs of designating critical habitat include administrative efforts and modifications to projects and activities taking place on designated land.

Potential costs also may be associated with timber harvesting, grazing, recreation and development.

The analysis also looked at potential effects on small businesses -- including ranches -- as well social and community impacts on American Indian communities and effects on "property values attributable to public perception or uncertainty about proposed critical habitat."

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, potential economic benefits from establishing critical habitat include:

-- helping real estate value by preserving open space

-- reducing county expenditures on bank stabilization

-- maintaining ecosystem health because in the absence of frogs, other natural organisms may suffer.

Under the Endangered Species Act, critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations. These areas do not necessarily have to be occupied by the species at the time of designation.

The California red-legged frog was listed as threatened in 1996, under the Endangered Species Act.

At the time of the listing, the Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that designation of critical habitat "was not prudent for the frog because such designation would not benefit the species and could make it more vulnerable to increased acts of habitat vandalism, destruction or unauthorized collection," the agency said in a prepared statement.

Tuesday's announcement resulted from a lawsuit filed in 1999 by the EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund.

In December 1999, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the service to propose critical habitat for the species.

The largest native frog in the western United States, the California red-legged frog ranges from 1.5 to 5 inches in length.

An adult frog is distinguished by its coloring: an olive, brown, gray or reddish back marked by small black flecks and larger dark blotches and a rusty-red hue to its belly and the undersides of its hind legs. The species breeds in aquatic habitats such as streams, ponds, marshes and stock ponds.

During wet weather, frogs may move through upland habitats.

The historic range of the California red-legged frog extended from the vicinity of Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County and inland from the vicinity of Redding south to northwestern Baja California, Mexico.

The frog has sustained a 70 percent reduction in its geographic range in California as a result of habitat loss and alteration, overexploitation, and introduction of exotic predators.

Today, the frog is found primarily in coastal drainages of central California. Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties support the greatest amount of currently occupied habitat.

Only four areas within the entire historic range of this species may currently harbor more than 350 adults.

-- Bee Metro Staff, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service



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Lance Clifford
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I think I used to shoot those frogs with my pellet Gun when I was a kid. I think it is really dumb that there is so much time and money spent on a damn frog when the are much greater problems to be resolved.

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eh?
 

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whatever happened to that crazy theory called Natural Selection?

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Has anyone ever seen any actual documentation or a scientific study or do these guys just have to say it's so.

Here is what they do. They mark off a square meter and count the number of frogs they see. They then use statistics to "project" the total number of frogs in the entire forest. Add some emotions and a eco-nazi agenda and wala you've got some wacko baked up numbers that are meant to shock the forest service....it works, I'll have to acknowledge that. who are these people, do they have jobs?????what do they do for fun???


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