|Contact:||Collette Adkins Giese, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821
Cynthia Sarthou, Gulf Restoration Network, (504) 525-1528 x 202
Agreement Will Speed Recovery of Endangered Mississippi Frog
Fewer Than 100 Adult Frogs Left in Wild
GULFPORT, Miss.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Gulf Restoration Network today announced an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requiring the agency to develop a recovery plan for endangered dusky gopher frogs. Under the agreement, the dusky gopher frog will receive a draft recovery plan by the end of the year and a final plan by June 2015.
Gopher frogs have been protected under the Endangered Species Act for more than a decade, but the Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to develop a required recovery plan to guide management of the species. In December 2012 the conservation groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Interior Department for its failure to develop such a plan for these endangered frogs. The agreement announced today is a result of discussions aimed at avoiding litigation.
“With fewer than 100 adult frogs remaining, dusky gopher frogs are one of our most highly endangered amphibians, hovering on the razor’s edge of extinction,” said Collette Adkins Giese, the Center’s attorney dedicated to conserving amphibians and reptiles. “The recovery plan that results from this agreement will make sure we do everything humanly possible to ensure these animals don’t vanish forever.”
Recovery plans are the main tool for identifying actions necessary to save endangered species from extinction and eventually remove their protection under the Endangered Species Act. Research by the Center has found that the status of species with dedicated recovery plans for two or more years is far more likely to be improving than of those without. Timely development and implementation of recovery plans is critical to saving species, because the plans identify all of the necessary actions to save the species, such as research and habitat restoration and protection.
“Recovering endangered species is what the Endangered Species Act is all about, so we are pleased that the Service is finally acting to develop and implement a plan that ensures the frog’s recovery,” said Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of the Gulf Restoration Network. “This recovery plan will give us a roadmap of the actions needed to ensure the species will survive.”
The dusky gopher frog (Rana sevosa) is a warty, dark-colored frog with ridges on the sides of its back. When picked up, the frogs cover their eyes with their forefeet, possibly to protect their faces until predators taste their bitter, milky skin secretions and drop them. Gopher frogs spend most of their lives underground, in burrows created by gopher tortoises — hence their name.
Once prevalent throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, dusky gopher frogs are nearly extinct. More than 98 percent of long-leaf pine forests — upon which the frog depends — have been destroyed. Fire suppression, drought, pesticides, urban sprawl, highway construction and the decline of gopher tortoises have made this frog so rare it now lives in only a few small Mississippi ponds, with only one pond showing consistent frog reproduction. According to surveys, there are likely fewer than 100 adult frogs of the species left in the world.
In response to a Center lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the gopher frog as a federally endangered species in 2001. Also in response to a lawsuit and advocacy by the Center, the Service in June 2012 designated 6,477 acres of protected critical habitat in both Mississippi and Louisiana for the endangered frogs. Last week the Center and Gulf Restoration Network moved to intervene in a federal lawsuit brought by a private landowner who challenges these habitat protections. The environmental groups are also working with a land developer to protect the gopher frog’s last viable breeding pond through land purchase or exchange.