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Threatened red-legged frog may get more habitat

September 16, 2008 |  4:20 pm

Frog_3 The California red-legged frog, which got caught in a political tempest created by an Interior Department official, may get much of its habitat restored.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed on Tuesday to increase the threatened frog's critical habitat to some 1.8 million acres in the state. The agency revisited the original habitat designation, citing scientific miscalculations and political manipulation by a former Interior Department official, Julie MacDonald.

MacDonald resigned last year after an internal review found that she pressured scientists to alter conclusions to reduce protections for endangered species and provided internal documents to lobbyists. The report said MacDonald improperly provided department information to lobbyists and private-sector interests, such as the California Farm Bureau and the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California.

"MacDonald appears to have a close personal and business relationship with a farm bureau lobbyist," the report said.

The California red-legged frog was one of the species whose habitat was reduced to make way for development interests. The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed habitat. The agency will undertake an economic analysis to determine if the financial burden on property owners from habitat protections is outweighed by any benefit to species. A final rule is expected by late next summer.

-- Julie Cart

Photo credit: Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times

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