The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to protect the Oregon spotted frog as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Fish and Wildlife also proposes to designate 68,192 acres and 23 miles of streams in Washington and Oregon as critical habitat for the aquatic frog, a species that rarely emerges on land.
A 60-day public comment period begins today, and Fish and Wildlife will collect scientific and commercial data over the next year before making a final decision on the proposal.
“Aquatic species are good indicators of our water quality and wetland health, and because the Oregon spotted frog is the most aquatic native frog in the Pacific Northwest, it is particularly important that we pay attention to its plight,” Ken Berg, Washington state Fish and Wildlife spokesman, said in a press release.
The frog’s habitat once ranged from parts of British Columbia to parts of California in 48 different watersheds. It is now found in 31 watersheds in five Oregon and five Washington counties, including Skagit.
Of the areas proposed as critical habitat in those counties, 67 percent is federally owned, 3 percent is state owned, 30 percent is under local municipality or private ownership, and less than 1 percent is under county jurisdictions.
The frog was initially identified as a potential endangered species 20 years ago due to habitat destruction, including the loss of wetlands and water pollution, and the introduction of non-native predators, such as bullfrogs.
According to Fish and Wildlife, the frog is an integral part of the food web that helps keep water clear of bacteria, algae and insects and is eaten by birds, snakes and otters. The species is also resistant to a fungus that has plagued many amphibians and may be used for further research.