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Government compromises on red-legged frog habitat 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) unveiled on Nov. 3 a scaled-down allotment of protected habitat for the state's largest amphibian, the red-legged frog - long thought to be the inspiration for Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

The new map benefits from updated information and upgraded mapping capabilities, according to the FWS.

Though the newly reduced area comprises roughly 18 percent of what the service came up with in 2001, the Central Coast will still face a sizeable economic impact. Based on the number of housing projects that can't be built over the next 20 years because of the critical habitat, San Luis Obispo County will lose the most; an estimated $166 million, while Santa Barbara County could lose upward of $41 million.

The FWS also created a special rule that exempts from the Endangered Species Act routine ranching activities on private lands.

The total of 737,912 acres is a fraction of the 4.1 million acres proposed in 2004, a plan that was based on the original 2001 critical-habitat designation.

The public has until Feb. 1, 2006, to comment on the proposed rule changes and habitat maps. Visit www.fws.gov for more information, or send comments to Field Office Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W. 2605, Sacramento CA 95825.

-A.R.

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