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Endangered frog puts forest-thinning project on hold

Endangered frog puts forest-thinning project on hold.

This image provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service shows a mountain yellow-legged frog. (AP Photo/USFish and Wildlife Service)

US officials are balancing forest-fire risk against the need to preserve an endangered species near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevadas, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reports.

Per a stipulation signed by a judge last week, the US Forest Service will delay its tree-thinning project there until it consults with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on whether a particular frog is being put at risk.

The yellow-legged frog, already an endangered species, has a "designated critical habitat" on land in the Upper Echo Lakes where officials have been burning or taking away trees to reduce the chance of wildfires.

Biologist Dennis Murphy—whose lawsuit started the case, and who owns a seasonal home at Upper Echo Lake—said in a statement cited by the AP that the Forest Service "put on blinders to the impacts of the project hoping no one would notice." Murphy also accused officials of not doing their due diligence of studying how the tree-burning would affect the frog species and its natural habitat (the frog was once the "most abundant amphibian in the high mountain lakes of the Sierra Nevada," notes the National Park Service).

The Forest Service, which declined to comment, wrapped up about 40% of the project before the government closed it down. (Elsewhere, say hello to the world's newest toad.)

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