Gopher Frog Faces Extinction; Will Receive Federal Protection

Thirteen years ago, Glen Johnson wandered through rural Harrison County and found the one pond where the Mississippi Gopher Frog reproduced. Johnson said he "never had a clue at the time that the animal actually was in such an endangered situation."

Over the years, gopher frog tadpoles have been tough to find. Despite efforts by Johnson and biologists from Southeastern Louisiana University to help the frog reproduce, the Interior Department had no choice but to put the Harrison County frog on the endangered species list.

"It will go a long way toward perhaps extending the lifetime of this population. But ultimately, it's probably doomed," Johnson said.

Saving the frog has been a focal point for both biologists and Harrison County developers. The pond where the gopher frog lives is adjacent to the 4,600 acres where the Tradition master planned community will be built.

Jim Stackpoole is president of the Tradition development. He said, "We've treated this issue as though the gopher frog was listed from the very beginning. We've done everything we could to be sensitive to it."

The Tradition recently agreed to donate 80 acres of land to the Nature Conservancy. The land will provide a buffer between the development, and the gopher frogs in Glen's Pond. Stackpoole said, "We're doing it because we think it's the right thing to do as developers."

But the man who first realized the gopher frog was in Harrison County said that may not be enough to save it. Glen Johnson said, "I think that perhaps the frog is doomed anyway, because of its extremely low numbers and the fact that it's so isolated."

The Mississippi Gopher Frog was one of 29 animals and plants placed on the endangered species list.