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A Frog With More Bite Than Bark

By George Bryant, LS, Vice President, Koontz-Bryant, P.C.

A recent article published on the Koontz-Bryant website informed our readers of the proposed regulations relating to the Northern Long Eared Bat. During the process of acquiring a wetland permit for a project, our client had been asked to perform a habitat assessment study and/or complete survey for the possible existence of the bat. Quotes were received for a habitat study in the $1000 range with expected costs for a full blown bat survey to range from $5000 to $12,000.

Click Here for a Video of the Barking Tree FrogToday, a species of amphibian is now on the public watch list. Hyla Gratiosa, commonly known as the Barking Tree Frog (click on photo to see video of the frog), is on the radar of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Corps of Engineers (COE). The most populous region of the country for this species is the Southeastern United States. My research indicated that the frog is considered “common” in the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. The frogs are listed as endangered in Delaware, threatened in Virginia, and legally protected in Maryland and Tennessee.

A Koontz-Bryant client was recently asked by DEQ to perform a survey of the Barking Tree Frog as part of the wetland permitting process. The time frame for acquiring a wetland permit is already lengthy and expensive. The survey of the Barking Tree Frog is restricted from late spring to mid-summer. Not performing the study could significantly delay the permit and result in significant additional expense to the project. The survey cost was approximately $1000, although other quotes were received to the tune of about $5000. The study did not find the existence of the Barking Tree Frog, but DEQ still asked our client to protect a portion of the project as possible habitat. Further investigation showed that the area was already protected by the wetland regulations.

Regardless of your views of politics, property rights, or the enforcement of increasing environmental regulations, no one wants various species of animals to become threatened, endangered or extinct. I see a significant difference between the Long Eared Bat and the Barking Tree Frog. The Long Eared Bat is under attack by a disease known as White-nose Syndrome. This disease is not affecting a minute portion of the population, but appears to have spread throughout the bat’s habitat.

The Barking Tree Frog is not currently under attack by disease and the overall population appears to be sustaining itself in the states which contain most of the frog’s habitat. Six southeastern counties in Virginia represent the very northern extreme of the frog’s habitat. Climate appears to be a significant factor that limits the species’ populations further north. Common sense dictates that the frog’s existence in Virginia would be less than in the warmer southern states. My opinion is that current environmental regulations are adequately protecting the habitat of the species within the Commonwealth.

Scientists will continue to develop information about the ecosystems of this planet and the animals that live within them. As we become more informed about populations and benefits of these ecosystems, as responsible stewards of our environment we should preserve various habitats and protect species of animals. We are all familiar with successful repopulation of the Bald Eagle through conservation. However, we also need to be cognizent of the costs of environmental regulations in both time and money. The costs of these regulations are passed along to the end consumer of the project: the general public. I hope we continue to protect the native species of our commonwealth and find cost effective solutions to provide that protection. Some people fear the loss of habitat, others fear over-reaching environmental regulation. The answer is usually somewhere in the middle. As for the need to require studies of the Barking Tree Frog - do a little research and determine for yourself if any regulation is really warranted in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Feel free to share your thoughts with George Bryant at 804-200-1902 or via email.