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SUNRIVER — Federal wildlife officials took questions and addressed concerns Tuesday night about the planned listing of the Oregon spotted frog for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The meeting, hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, drew about 50 people, and the conversation focused on what the listing could mean for private landowners in and around Sunriver.
“Up here is some of the last, best habitat,” said Paul Henson, Oregon director for the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Along with potentially listing the spotted frog as a threatened species, the agency is considering designating more than 35,000 acres as critical habitat for the amphibian. Eighty percent of that land is federally held. The bulk of the other 20 percent is private property.
Henson said the agency’s goal is to make private landowners feel that wildlife on their property like the spotted frog is an asset and not a liability.
A listing for the frog won’t impact private landowners unless they are trying to make changes to wetlands on their property, said Nancy Gilbert, field supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Bend office. And the work would need to be the type that requires a federal permit.
Those permits already provide protection for the rivers and wetlands, she said, so they should help the frog.
Deschutes County has also protected wetlands for more than 30 years, so a listing shouldn’t change how the county does planning, said Peter Gutowsky, principal planner for the county. He said the frog is not moving out of wetlands so it won’t impact dryland projects.
“You are not going to find it in your toilet,” he said. “You are not going to find it on your lawn.”
Diane Heinzelman, who has lived south of Sunriver on the Little Deschutes River since 1995, said she is hopeful the listing won’t mean any changes to her land, but past experience with federal agencies give her doubt.
“Anytime someone overlays a map onto your property, there is going to be an effect,” she said.
Habitat loss caused by lodgepole pine encroachment, the spread of invasive grasses and predation by bullfrogs have caused the decline of the spotted frog around the Northwest.
The Fish and Wildlife Service should make a final decision on whether to list the spotted frog in September 2014, said Jennifer O’Reilly, biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Bend.
— Reporter: 541-617-7812, firstname.lastname@example.org