PORTLAND, Ore.— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over harm to the federally protected Oregon spotted frog from operation of the Crane Prairie and Wickiup dams on the Deschutes River. The 2- to 4-inch long, black-spotted frog, now known to fewer than 100 sites, lives on the margins of both reservoirs and along the river below the dams. Large fluctuations of both the size of the reservoirs and flows in the river alternately flood or desiccate the frog’s habitat, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
“If the Bureau of Reclamation keeps operating these two dams like it has, the Oregon spotted frog has little chance of survival,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “The Bureau has turned the Deschutes River on its head with high flows in late summer and low flows in winter, exactly the opposite of how a natural river should flow. This harms not only the Oregon spotted frog, but salmon, steelhead and people that depend on the health of the river.”
The frog, which was protected last year under the Endangered Species Act, was once common from British Columbia to Northern California along numerous rivers and lakes, including the Deschutes and Willamette. But the frog known for the unique clicking sound it makes has undergone massive declines because of loss of its wetland habitats largely due to dam building, urban and agricultural development and livestock grazing.
“The fate of the Oregon spotted frog is intimately tied to the health of our rivers and streams,” said Greenwald. “As we’ve dammed, channelized and polluted rivers across the Northwest and beyond, species like this charismatic frog have suffered. By saving these animals, we’ll almost certainly improve the health of the Deschutes and other Northwest rivers.”
The Center is represented in litigation by Laurie Rule and Elizabeth Zultoski of Advocates for the West.