WASHINGTON — The California red-legged frog is getting a second look from Bush administration officials who now acknowledge politics may have trumped science in earlier endangered species decisions.
In an extraordinary and apparently unprecedented move, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it will review how the agency handled eight endangered species decisions going back several years. Officials fear former Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie A. MacDonald may have twisted policy to please private interests.
The new reviews will reopen some intensely fought endangered species battles. They range from removing protections for a jumping mouse in Colorado to shrinking the critical habitat designed for the Southwestern willow flycatcher and the Canada lynx.
In California, the agency will be reviewing MacDonald's role in drastically reducing the critical habitat set aside for the California red-legged frog. Last spring, the agency designated 450,288 acres as critical habitat for the amphibian made famous by Mark Twain's story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."
Under MacDonald's guidance, the frog's final critical habitat was 39 percent smaller than scientists had proposed.