The Fish and Wildlife Service, proposed (PDF) today to designate critical habitat for the Chiricahua leopard frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  In addition, because of a taxonomic revision of the Chiricahua leopard frog, the Service is reassessing the status of and threats to the species.

The Service proposed designation of approximately 11,136 acres as critical habitat (PDF) for the species.  The proposed critical habitat is located in Apache, Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Yavapai Counties, Arizona; and Catron, Hidalgo, Grant, Sierra, and Socorro Counties, New Mexico.

The species was first listed as threatened in 2002.  At that time, the Ramsey leopard frog, found on the eastern slopes of the Huachuca Mountains in Cochise County, was thought to be a unique species. The Service has since determined that the Ramsey leopard frog is taxonomically identical to the Chiricauhua leopard frog.  As a result, the Service is now reassessing the status of and threats to the species and proposing to continue its protection as threatened under the ESA.  The current listing includes a special rule to encourage owners of occupied ponds to routinely maintain their ponds. Today’s proposal retains that rule.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Chiricauhua leopard frog is threatened by predation from nonnative species, a fungal disease, and habitat degradation from livestock grazing, mining, stream diversions, groundwater pumping and loss of natural fire regimes.

The Service will consider comments on the proposed listing received or postmarked on or before May 16, 2011.