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Oregon Spotted Frog Now a Threatened Species

Aug 28, 2014 11:56 PM EDT
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The Oregon spotted frog will now receive protection under the Endangered Species Act, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Thursday.

Having disappeared from up to 90 percent of its habitat, the Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa) has now been classified as a threatened species.

This amphibian will be protected throughout its range, which extends from southwestern British Columbia through the Puget/Willamette Valley, and in the Cascades Range from south-central Washington to the Klamath Basin in Oregon. Oregon spotted frogs may even already be extinct in California and the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

"This unique and highly aquatic frog was once common in the Pacific Northwest and its decline signals degradation in the health of natural areas that provide for people as well as fish and wildlife," Tom McDowell of the FWS told KTVZ.

The palm-sized frog - about two to four inches long - has lost its habitat mainly due to urban and agricultural development, livestock grazing, the removal of beavers and the encroachment of non-native grasses, the service said, according to The Associated Press (AP).

R. pretiosa was first proposed for Endangered Species Act protection in 1991, though now that it has finally been deemed "threatened," some experts worry that it may be too little too late.

"It's probably the worst-off amphibian we have in the state," said Andy Blaustein, professor of biology at Oregon State University.

Some Oregon officials are also concerned that the decision will limit access to grazing lands and timber and hurt the local ranching and logging industries. For example, on the Fremont-Winema National Forest in southern Oregon, a rancher had been told to remove his cattle from a grazing allotment because his stock was straying behind fencing meant to protect frog habitat.

But for the FWS, protecting the spotted frog is priority, not just for the species itself but also because saving it will help other species, like songbirds and beavers.

"Our ongoing work with partners to conserve and restore Oregon spotted frog habitat means improvements to our land and water that will benefit many other species and provide for a healthy environment for future generations," McDowell told KTVZ.

The proposal did not include designation of critical habitat, but a final ruling on the matter is expected in the fall.

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