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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

August 30, 2002
Jessica Gourley 801-975-3330 ext 133
Diane Katzenberger 303-236-7917 ext 408

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE CONCLUDES NO NEED TO PUT
WASATCH FRONT POPULATION OF COLUMBIA SPOTTED FROG ON ENDANGERED LIST

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today in the Federal Register that the Wasatch Front Columbia spotted frog does not warrant listing as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Based on the Service’s most recent review of the status of the Wasatch Front Columbia spotted frog as a result of a court settlement on August 6, 2001, the Service found stable, viable, and self-sustaining populations of the species distributed throughout the historic range and that the status continues to improve. At this time, there is no indication that the Columbia spotted frog is in danger of extinction or likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future throughout the Wasatch Front.

"As a result of a partnership with State, Tribal and Federal agencies in Utah in the way of conservation agreement, several efforts have been implemented that not only improved the frog’s habitat but also the status of the species in general," said Ralph Morgenweck, director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. "The participation of universities, local species’experts and other interested individuals has been crucial to the conservation of the species," Morgenweck added.

The Wasatch Front population of the Columbia spotted frog occurs in isolated springs or riparian wetlands in Juab, Sanpete, Summit, Utah, and Wasatch Counties. The largest known concentration is currently in the Heber Valley. The overall distribution of the Columbia spotted frog is continuous throughout extreme southeastern Alaska, southwestern Yukon, northern British Columbia, and western Alberta; and south through Washington (east of the Cascades), eastern Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana. Its southern extent includes disjunct populations in central and northeastern Nevada, southwestern Idaho, western and north-central Wyoming, and the Wasatch Front in Utah.

Available anecdotal and scant survey information indicates that the Columbia spotted frog could have been the most historically abundant frog on the Wasatch Front. Undoubtedly, there were substantially more populations than today. Available historic and recent information indicates there was a decline in the number of Columbia spotted frog populations along the Wasatch Front through the early- to mid-1900s. In fact, some experts speculated that the Wasatch Front

population of the Columbia spotted frog was extinct by the 1980s due to losses of known populations in some areas and widespread human development and land-use. However, after decades of decline, the Wasatch Front population of the Columbia spotted frog has been exhibiting a stable to increasing trend since 1998.

The Columbia spotted frog belongs to the family of true frogs, the Ranidae. Columbia spotted frogs along the Wasatch Front generally possess a salmon color abdomen and brownish-black backs with little to no spotting pattern. The spotted frog is closely associated with water. Habitat includes the marshy edges of ponds, lakes, slow-moving cool water streams and springs.

The Service received a petition in 1989 from the Board of Directors of the Utah Nature Study Society requesting the Service add the Columbia spotted frog to the List of Threatened and Endangered Species and to specifically consider the status of the Wasatch Front, Utah population. In the 12-month petition finding, the Service determined that listing the Columbia spotted frog as threatened in some portions of its range, including the Wasatch Front, was warranted but precluded by other higher priority listing actions.

On February 13, 1998, the Service, in cooperation with the State of Utah and other Federal and Tribal agencies, signed a Conservation Agreement to ensure the long-term conservation of the Columbia spotted frog within its historical range in Utah. On April 2, 1998, the Service determined that the status of the species in Utah had improved and that the Columbia spotted frog no longer warranted listing due to planned and ongoing conservation actions and studies in addition to and pursuant with a Conservation Agreement.

In June 1999, a complaint was filed by the Biodiversity Legal Foundation and Peter Hovingh challenging the "not warranted" finding as violating the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. On August 6, 2001, a settlement was reached between the plaintiffs and the Government regarding this complaint. The settlement stipulated that the Service start a new status review and 12-month finding on the Wasatch Front population of the Columbia spotted frog to be completed by July 31, 2002, later extended to August 23, 2002 by agreement with the plaintiffs. Following this settlement, the Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a review to evaluate the status of the Columbia spotted frog on the Wasatch Front, resulting in the not warranted for listing ruling announced today.

For more information about this finding and the Wasatch Front population of Columbia spotted frog please visit our web site at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/spottedfrog

 

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