Bush admin plans to gut critical habitat for red-legged frog

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed slashing critical habitat for California’s threatened red-legged frog by over 80 percent, from 4.1 million to 737,912 acres. Why, you ask? It seems protecting the beleaguered amphibian just costs too darn much: The agency says projected economic losses of nearly $500 million over the next 20 years outweigh benefits to the frog. But two economists who consulted with the FWS say they were instructed not to calculate the economic upsides of preserving such habitat — cleaner drinking water, revived outdoor tourism, and higher real-estate values for homes abutting open space. Instead, they were told to insert wording from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget stating that it wasn’t feasible to “monetize” such benefits. The administration has voided 16.4 million acres of critical-habitat designation since 2001.