The dusky gopher frog used to be found in Louisiana and Alabama, according to Fish and Wildlife, but is now found only in some parts of Mississippi.
The Supreme Court jumped into a case about the government's power to designate private land as critical habitat for an endangered frog species, but is staying out of another case seeking to protect the bearded seal from future threats of climate change.
The Fish and Wildlife Service ordered a 1,500-acre tract of privately owned land protected as a potential breeding and living space for the frogs, which now live in MS and were once believed to live in the Louisiana tract in question in the 1960s. A month later, the Service proposed to protect almost 2,000 acres - and in 2012 it designated more than triple that amount, protecting 6,477 acres.
The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the government in 2016. But the court agreed with the federal agency that those lands are essential because they contain five ephemeral ponds, each within hopping distance of the next.
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The designated tract cuts right through property owned by timber company Weyerhaeuser, which had meant to use the land for residential and commercial development projects.
House Republicans previous year moved to overhaul parts of the Endangered Species Act, a statute that lawmakers from both parties agree needs updating.
"The landowners thus face the Catch-22 that they can continue forestry operations on the frogless land largely unhindered by the designation", the company wrote. "Either way, the designation destroys economic activity, leaves the land as unoccupied non-habitat, and does nothing to help the frog". "However, in this case, designation was applied to a tract of land where the species has not been present for decades, and where the specific habitat conditions it requires do not exist".
But Collette Adkins, an attorney for the conservation group Center for Biological Diversity, called on the court to uphold the designation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Markle v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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"Historical records showed that the frog previously inhabited several counties or parishes in Alabama, Louisiana, and MS", the Justice Department told the court.
The Center for Biological Diversity and Gulf Restoration Network are participatating in the litigation before the Supreme Court. "This lawsuit attempts to gut essential habitat protections for the frog".
Two cases were in front of the Justices on Friday in private conference about the endangered frogs from MS that could return to Louisiana: Weyerhaeuser v.
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