Habitat maintenance may still reach $566M

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Maintaining the critical habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog, which makes its home in locations throughout San Mateo County, could cost up to $566 million during the next 20 years, according to a report released this month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The frogs live in well-vegetated areas along rivers and ponds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Although once common throughout California, scientists say its habitat has been lost to farmland and development. The amphibian was listed as threatened in 1996.

A new federal report estimates that through a 20-year period, the cost to save critical habitat for the frog would be between $183 million and $566 million, roughly 20 percent less than a previous estimate.

In San Mateo, the frog is part of a conservation plan for San Bruno Mountain that set aside hundreds of acres of the mountain in 1983 for protection of critical habitats.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Al Donner said the habitat conservation plan for San Bruno Mountain lowers the overall costs to developers.

Donner said developers often spend long periods of time and money on consultants who review projects and space to determine what’s best for conservation. If no land can be saved, the developer must find equivalent land nearby.

Donner said a habitat conservation plan is more beneficial to the endangered species, “and it can help multiple species.”

The red-legged frog is currently the focus of a fight at Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica that’s being lead by environmentalists and some San Francisco officials.

A report from The City’s Recreation and Park Department on how — and if — the golf course can continue to operate while protecting the frog and the endangered garter snake is expected to be released this month. San Francisco owns and operates the golf course.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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