October 3rd, 2012 16:51 EST
Rare Puerto Rican Frog Threatened by Gas Pipeline, Go-karts and Trash
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it will protect a rare, recently discovered Puerto Rican frog, the coquÃ llanero, as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The protection includes 615 acres of freshwater wetland as critical habitat in northern Puerto Rico. The tiny frog " about 15 millimeters long, the span of a dime " has been waiting for federal protection since 2007. The decision was made in accordance with a landmark settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity requiring the agency to expedite protection decisions for 757 species.
The wondrous coquÃ llanero is finally getting the protection it so desperately needs to survive, " said Jaclyn Lopez, an attorney with the Center. Lifesaving Endangered Species Act protections will help stave off mounting threats to the coquÃ`s limited habitat. "
Puerto Rican herpetologists first discovered the coquÃ llanero in 2005. Recognizing the imminent threats to the coquÃ`s habitat, the Caribbean Primate Research Center petitioned the Service to list the frog in May 2007. The Center sued in 2010 to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to that petition.
The coqui is extremely isolated and depends on a delicately balanced wetland, so critical habitat protection is essential to its survival, " said Lopez. Despite its relative rarity, the coquÃ`s presence in this wetland is significant. It indicates a healthy wetland that helps a variety of species survive, gives protection against flooding and recharges groundwater. "
The coquÃ llanero is one of 16 coquÃ found only in Puerto Rico. The common coquÃ, whose name comes from the male frog`s iconic singing-call ko-kee, " is a cultural symbol of Puerto Rico. The coquÃ llanero`s limited range is likely the result of historical and current land uses " including urban development, a go-kart track and a landfill.
The designated critical habitat is made up of freshwater wetlands in Sebana Seca, Toa Baja, that are currently threatened by multiple development projects. A new and very severe threat to the coquÃ is an ill-conceived, 92-mile-long liquefied natural gas pipeline, misleadingly called Via Verde ( green way "). The construction, operation and maintenance of the pipeline may affect the natural drainage body of the wetland.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.