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GLIN==> What's Happening to the Frogs?




Press Release                                      Contact: Cindy Hoffman
                                                           202/208-3008


                      What's Happening to the Frogs?

 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Kicks-off Nation-wide Scientific Study of
                                  Refuges
                   to Determine Cause of Frog Deformities

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched a nation-wide scientific
study of  wildlife refuges to investigate the cause of malformed frogs,
toads and salamanders cropping up across the country and around the world.
This summer, 43 refuges in 31 states from Alaska to Hawaii and Maryland to
California will be studied by biologists and volunteers.  These studies
will focus on the impact of pollutants, especially pesticides, on amphibian
malformations.

"What's happening to these amphibians, and what their plight can tell us
about our own environment are some of the questions the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service plans to find out as we kick-off a first ever national
amphibian survey of our refuge system," said Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"It seems fitting to launch this national amphibian study at Patuxent
Research Refuge, where in the late 1960s, some of the key research was done
to link DDT to reproductive problems in peregrine falcons, bald eagles and
other raptors," said Director Clark. That research led the Environmental
Protection Agency to ban the use of DDT in 1972.

In the last five years, an increasing number of frogs and toads with severe
malformations have been observed throughout the United States and around
the world.  Surveys conducted in 1997 in the northeast and midwest found
malformation rates ranging up to 17.9 percent at some of the refuges.

"Frog populations around the world are in a state of dramatic decline,"
said Director Clark. "When frogs and toads are either not found at all or
are found with malformations on our national wildlife refuges, there is
something wrong.  We are here today to try to find out what that something
is."

Amphibians are good indicators of significant environmental changes.  Frogs
and toads are highly sensitive to their environments, since they breathe at
least partly through their skin.  Scientists are studying a variety of
possible causes for the declines and malformations, including disease and
fungal infections, habitat loss, thinning ozone and increased ultraviolet
radiation, pollution and other contaminant factors. The potential combined
impact of some or all of these factors make it more difficult for
scientists to determine the cause.  The study is part of the Department of
the Interior's Amphibian Initiative and includes other Interior agencies.
A multi-agency taskforce consisting of the Departments of the Interior,
Agriculture, Justice, Defense, State, the Environmental Protection Agency,
the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution has been
charged by the Clinton Administration to determine the causes of this trend
of declines and malformations and to institute the appropriate actions to
halt the disappearance of amphibians.

Today, eighteen species of frogs, toads and salamanders are listed as
either threatened or endangered in the United States and Puerto Rico. Since
1989, scientists have documented four major "hot spots" for amphibian
declines: western North America, Central America, northeast Australia and
Puerto Rico. Some of the American declines have occurred in the most
unlikely spots- the nation's refuges, parks and wilderness areas.

In 1997, the Service started conducting surveys on some national wildlife
refuges in the northeast and midwest.  High malformation rates were found
on four refuges in the midwest and nine refuges in the northeast, including
Patuxent Research Refuge and Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in
Maryland and Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.

This year, scientists will be studying malformed frogs, toads and
salamanders, as well as amphibian eggs, to determine the effect of
pesticides on these species.  Data acquired through the refuge studies done
this year will be analyzed along with data gathered from other agencies on
other suspected causes of decline and malformations.  Building on the
information gathered from these studies, and using other existing data, the
Service will create a comprehensive map of hot spots nation-wide and
provide concrete management guidelines for wildlife refuges and other land
managers to address potential problems.

Director Clark encouraged the public to get involved in protecting
amphibians.  "Homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per
acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops.  We can all help by choosing
non-chemical weed controls whenever possible, minimizing our use of
fertilizer and reducing our dependence on pesticides," said Clark.  "If we
all take these actions, we will not only be helping amphibians, but we will
be taking care of our watersheds and other species like birds and fish as
well."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses more than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands
of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66
national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological
services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws,
administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations,
restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife
habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their
conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that
distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and
hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

                                   -FWS-

* Attention Editor:  B-roll of ponds with biologists conducting surveys,
close-ups of healthy and malformed frogs and laboratory shots of biologists
studying frogs, eggs and tad-poles, as well as pictures of healthy and
malformed frogs will be available.  The brochure, "Homeowner's Guide to
Protecting Frogs-Lawn and Garden Care" is available on our web-site at www.
fws.gov.





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