HARRISON COUNTY — The Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network and Columbus Communities, the developer of a planned community called Tradition in Harrison County signed an agreement today to protect habitat for the highly endangered Mississippi gopher frog
The memorandum of understanding outlines steps the parties will take to facilitate a land exchange between the developer and U.S. Forest Service to protect one of the gopher frog’s last remaining breeding ponds.
“Today’s agreement gives hope to the Mississippi gopher frog,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center attorney who works to protect endangered amphibians and reptiles. “The Mississippi gopher frog regularly breeds in only one pond on earth, and we’re concerned that development in the area of that last pond will drive the species extinct unless we stop it. The proposed land exchange is a common-sense solution.”
Columbus Communities is in the process of developing Tradition, a 4,800-acre planned community in Harrison County adjacent to the gopher frog’s only viable breeding pond. Today’s agreement reflects a commitment by the developer and two conservation groups to work together to facilitate an exchange of ecologically important private land surrounding the breeding pond for an isolated parcel of the DeSoto National Forest north of the existing Tradition development.
“Good environmental stewardship is a core value of the Tradition community,” said Gerald Blessey, an attorney and spokesman for Tradition. “The land exchange proposal is a win-win strategy, allowing us to protect essential habitat for an endangered species while moving forward with our planned community.”
Once prevalent throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, the Mississippi gopher frog (Rana sevosa) is nearly extinct. The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the gopher frog as a federally endangered species in 2001, and according to recent surveys, there may be fewer than 100 adult frogs of the species remaining.