- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal wildlife officials on Wednesday proposed to downgrade the status of the arroyo toad from endangered to threatened, saying the California amphibian is no longer in danger of extinction.

The small, stocky toad was listed as endangered in 1993 under the Endangered Species Act after suffering losing habitat and facing threats from other frogs.

“We have significantly reduced the threats to the arroyo toad,” including expanding its current range, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement.

Environmental groups blasted the proposed change, saying threats to the toad’s survival remain.

“It’s clearly premature to lower the arroyo toad’s status from endangered to threatened,” Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

The toad, which can be olive green, gray or light brown, lives in streams and rivers in central and Southern California as well as Baja California, Mexico. The species breeds in shallow pools, sandbars and stream terraces.

Its population crashed between 1920 and 1980, mostly from the construction of dams, flood control and urban development. At the time it was listed as endangered, it was estimated that its population declined by 76 percent.

Current figures reveal the toads are living in 25 river basins in the U.S. and 10 in Mexico. Previously, they were found in 22 U.S. river basins.

Fish and Wildlife officials acknowledged that threats remain, but they said conservation efforts are ongoing. Plans are underway to remove nonnative plants such as tamarisk and giant reed and predators including bullfrogs and crayfish from streams inhabited by the arroyo toad.

The service also noted that conservation plans have been developed in the toad’s range, including in four national forests - Angeles, Cleveland, San Bernardino and Los Padres - and two military facilities.

The proposal to change the arroyo toad’s status will be published in Thursday’s Federal Register.

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