Threatened red-legged frog gets Sierra preserve |

Threatened red-legged frog gets Sierra preserve

FORESTHILL, Calif. (AP) – A threatened California frog that was celebrated by writer Mark Twain is getting a sanctuary in an area that contains some of its largest populations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved an agreement between two conservation groups to create a 48-acre preserve for the red-legged frog in the Sierra Nevada.

The site – known as the Big Gun Preserve – is near Foresthill in Placer County and is being preserved through an agreement announced this month between the landowner, Westervelt Ecological Services, and the Auburn-based Placer Land Trust.

The property, which was degraded during the Gold Rush, contains several ponds and riparian corridors that help make it an ideal habitat for the frogs, according to the land trust.

“What’s so incredible about this property is it shows us that over time, even the most heavily impacted sites can remain biologically significant,” said Lucy Triffleman of Westervelt Ecological Services.

The red-legged frog – the largest native frog in the western United States – has seen its numbers decline for decades, as its habitat has been eroded by new development, mining and invasion of nonnative plants, among other factors.

Federal officials listed the frog as threatened in 1996 and earlier this year announced they were designating more than 1.5 million acres in 27 California counties as critical habitat for the animal.

But the frog’s lore goes back much further. In the 1860s, Twain published “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” in newspapers and a collection of short stories.