Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Oregon Spotted Frog From Livestock Grazing

PORTLAND, OREGON, Mar. 12 -/E-Wire/-- PORTLAND, Ore.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, and Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center filed suit Tuesday against the Fremont-Winema National Forest for driving a rare population of the Oregon spotted frog to the brink of extinction, failing to conduct proper environmental analyses, and violating its own Forest Plan and the Clean Water Act. The suit challenges the Forest Service’s decision to allow continued grazing on the federal “Antelope’” grazing allotment, where a population of the spotted frog, which is a candidate for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, lives in Jack Creek and has declined precipitously in recent years.

“Continued livestock grazing on the Antelope Allotment is damaging water quality and stream banks and in the process decimating a population of the highly endangered Oregon spotted frog,” said Noah Greenwald, science director at the Center. “This is a clear example of poor stewardship of public lands on the part of the Forest Service.”

In 2005, the Forest Service sent letters to the public and the allotment permittees stating it was considering fencing Jack Creek to protect Oregon spotted frogs, but has never constructed the fence. The agency subsequently issued a new permit in 2006 that increased grazing from 345 to 945 animal-unit-months, or AUMs, without any environmental analyses or action to ensure spotted frog habitat was not further degraded. The new permit was issued under legislative riders attached to the massive Interior Appropriations Bills passed by Congress in 2003 and 2005, which allow the Forest Service to continue to allow grazing without environmental analyses or mitigation for damage to streams, wildlife, or other resources.

“Congress’s continued allowance of public-lands livestock grazing without consideration of the environmental impacts is leading to degradation of the nation’s public lands, including Jack Creek and the Oregon spotted frog,” said James Johnston, policy analyst with Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. “This is a violation of the public trust.”

The population of spotted frogs in Jack Creek is one of only approximately 29. The frog has been a candidate for protection as an endangered species since 1991 and has a “listing priority number” of 2, which is the highest it can have and is based on the high magnitude of threats and the small number of populations. Overall, the frog is gone from 90 percent of its range. In Jack Creek, the species declined from an estimated 316 frogs in 1997 to only 13 frogs in 2005.

“The decline of the Oregon spotted frog in Jack Creek is a direct result of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to protect the Oregon spotted frog under the Endangered Species Act,” said George Sexton, conservation director of Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “The Bush administration has delayed protection for the Oregon spotted frog and hundreds of other species for too long.”

Under the Bush administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been notoriously slow at protecting candidate species. There are currently 280 species on the candidate species list, which on average have been waiting 19 years for protection. Since passage of the Act, at least 24 candidate species have gone extinct. Despite these stark facts, the Fish and Wildlife Service has not listed a single species in 671 days. Under this administration the agency has only listed 58 U.S. species, compared to 522 under the Clinton administration and 234 under the first Bush administration.

Contact Info: Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495

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