The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a critical habitat designation for the California red-legged frog that is 80% smaller than originally proposed. Twice during the last five years USFWS has proposed critical habitat plans for the frog covering 4.1 million acres. The latest proposal designates 738,000 acres in 23 counties.

The Service reduced the amount of habitat considered critical to the endangered frog’s survival after development and business groups complained that earlier designations did not consider economic impacts. Builders still maintained that the latest designation is too large, while environmentalists said there was no scientific basis for the reduction. A final decision on critical habitat is due in early 2006.

The Golden Gate Audubon Society and Californians for Renewable Energy have sued Alameda County for not preparing an environmental impact report before renewing use permits for windmills in the Altamont Pass area, where windmills kill hundreds of raptors every year.

The county approved the use permits in late September with conditions that are intended to reduce bird deaths over time (see CP&DR Environment Watch, August 2005). However, environmentalists said the measures did not do enough and that an EIR was required. County officials were anticipating the lawsuit.

Over the objection of environmentalists and residents complaining about traffic congestion, the Orange City Council approved development by the Irvine Company of up to 3,992 housing units on 2,500 acres on the eastern edge of town. The plan calls for 128 affordable condominium units and 4,300 acres of protected wilderness areas. Litigation over the project’s impacts is likely.