The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday designated 1.6 million acres in California as critical habitat for the endangered red-legged frog, made famous by Mark Twain in his story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."
The amphibian, once so plentiful that it was commonly featured on restaurant menus, eventually became endangered because of development encroaching on its habitat and the effects of pesticides and other chemicals.
The habitat area is divided into 50 units across 27 California counties, including six counties that previously did not have designated critical habitat: Mendocino, Sonoma, Placer, Calaveras, Stanislaus and Kings.
It was the third time the agency has attempted to assign a protected area for the frog. Prior efforts were thwarted, first in 2001 by a lawsuit from the building industry, which objected to setting aside 4.1 million acres for frog habitat. Most recently, the agency reduced critical habitat to 450,000 acres in a controversial 2006 decision by Interior Department official Julie MacDonald, who was found to have provided internal documents to lobbyists and pressured scientists to alter their conclusions. MacDonald later resigned.