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For Immediate Release, May 12, 2011

Contact: Randy Serraglio, (520) 784-1504

Government Urged to Increase Habitat Protection for Chiricahua Leopard Frog

Proposed Acreage Excludes Rosemont Mine Area

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity called upon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to increase its proposed critical habitat protection for the rare Chiricahua leopard frog. The current proposal excludes the area of the proposed Rosemont mine in the Santa Rita Mountains of southern Arizona — despite the fact that the frogs have been found to live there — and downplays scientific evidence that  northern populations of the frog may be a different species, potentially making these frogs rarer than they already appeared to be.

“Critical habitat protection for the Chiricahua leopard frog is essential to its survival and recovery,” said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate with the Center. “But we need to protect all the places where this vanishing animal lives, including crucial habitat that’s faced with destruction by a massive open-pit copper mine.”

When a species is listed as endangered, areas deemed necessary to recover the species are designated as critical habitat, which prohibits federal agencies from funding, permitting or carrying out projects that will damage them. This Fish and Wildlife Service habitat proposal attempts to exclude the area of the proposed mine in part on the basis that it is unknown whether frogs occupied the area at the time the species was listed as endangered. However, recent surveys have shown that the frog now does occupy the area.

“A project as destructive as the Rosemont Mine needs to be studied for all of its potential impacts,” said Serraglio. “This end run around an endangered species hurts wildlife, but it also makes for a less-than honest assessment of the mine’s impacts.”

The Chiricahua leopard frog has been wiped out in more than 80 percent of its former range. Some studies have suggested that populations of the frog found in the Mogollon Rim area of central Arizona may actually be another species, previously thought to be extinct. “The Service should take more care to analyze the status of the northern populations of the Chiricahua leopard frog,” said Serraglio. “If they’re found to be different, it will increase the urgency to protect both species.”

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