Endangered frog at the center of environmental debate - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Endangered frog at the center of environmental debate

(Photo source: Univ. of Georgia) (Photo source: Univ. of Georgia)

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A small creature is causing a big stir in Harrison County. On Wednesday, a pair of environmental groups announced they've filed a letter of intent to sue on behalf of the endangered Mississippi Gopher Frog. The issue is a multi-million dollar waste water treatment plant now under construction. 

The Gulf Restoration Network and the Center for Biological Diversity are behind the suit. Workers are building the East Central Harrison Sewage Treatment Facility, but conservationists say the distance between the wastewater plant and the natural habitat for the Mississippi Golfer Frog is too close for comfort.

"We are less than a mile from the breading pond," said Casey DeMoss-Roberts. "We are standing on land where the frog could potentially go. It's really important to preserve breeding space around the pond for the frog because there's only 100 confirmed adults remaining, and that's not very many. "

Conservationists say they're not against the treatment plant, but they want more research done on how it may impact the endangered frog.

"We're actually not trying to stop the sewage treatment plant from being built," said DeMoss-Roberts. "What we want to do is prevent anyone from hooking up to the sewage treatment plant until they figure out how to protect the frog and their pond. 

Glen's Pond is the only place conservationists say the Mississippi Gopher Frog will reproduce. They say if the pond is threatened, the animals may go extinct.

"For whatever reason, this frog's biology is just very particular," DeMoss-Roberts said. "It will only breed where it was born, so this pond is supporting a whole population of frogs that will cease to exist if something happens to the pond."

"This pond is the last Mississippi Gopher frog singles' bar. This is it. This is where they go and they need some privacy."

Conservationists say the protection of the environment and encouragement of development don't have to be at odds.

"I think you can have both, but you can't just ignore nature and develop wildly," said DeMoss Casey. "Once we figure out what needs to protect the frog, then other projects can move forward. Until we make sure that this frog is not going to be wiped off the face of the map, we need to be careful about how we move forward."

The defendants have 60 days to try to resolve the issue without it going to court. WLOX left messages for the director of the Harrison County Utility Authority, but our calls were not returned by Wednesday evening.

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