Once found in over 400 aquatic sites across the Southwest, the water-breeding Chiricahua leopard frog is today found in fewer than 80. In a move that conservationists hope will help reverse its decline, the federal government is designating 10,386 acres of critical habitat for the rare spotted frog found.

The acreage in west-central and southwestern New Mexico, and central and southeastern Arizona have water sources that the Chiricahua leopard frog needs to rebound. The designation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibits federal agencies from authorizing activities that could harm the frog's breeding habitats.

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"Protecting the ponds and waterways where the Chiricahua leopard frog lives will give it an important leg up on survival," Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, told ENews Park Forest

The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit against the Service in 1999 and in 2001 for delaying Endangered Species Act protection for the frog, which received court-ordered protection in 2002, but for which no critical habitat had been proposed. Monday's ruling by the Agency was in compliance with a court order.

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Chiricahua leopard frog reach a size of 2 to 5 inches as adults. They live in streams, springs and livestock watering tanks and are known for making a sound that resembles a snore. 

This story contains material from The Associated Press.

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