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You Paid for It: $270,000 to be spent on Relict Leopard Frogs in Southern Nevada

You Paid for It: $270,000 to be spent on Relict Leopard Frogs in Southern Nevada

CREATED Jul 1, 2011

Clark County, NV (KTNV) -- How many tax dollars does it tax to count frogs? The answer is nearly $300,000. The law says we need to keep species from becoming extinct but when most families are just trying to keep a roof over their head, is it worth it?

Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears went frog hunting to see why you paid for it.

A Boulder City lab is obviously not the natural habitat of the Relict Leopard Frog, the wild is. But some of your tax dollars are going to help keep that lab going. Ross Haley with the National Park Service says we should be proud of how we're preserving the frog population.

"We've kept this species from becoming legally listed as endangered," explained Ross.

They're doing so through an agreement between the National Park Service and the Department of Air Quality and Environmental Management. The funding is spread over three years and one of the goals is to count the frogs.

So how do you count frogs one might ask? They started out in a tank in little nets where they are eggs and they hatch then they literally fish them out and plop them into ice cub trays so they can get an accurate count.

The tadpoles are fed and their environment studied to help them survive through a critical life stage when so many die. Years ago, biologists couldn't find the frogs and though they were gone for good. The frogs were rediscovered which is why the program exists.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak questions the spending.

"When you look at the report and it's itemized to set up the plan to plan to save the frogs we spent $15,000 and to manage the data about the plan the frogs or the tadpoles that was another $12,000," explained Sisolak.

The money isn't coming from general funds. It comes from a section of the Endangered Species Act and the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Program. When developers buy land, they pay a fee, which in turn is allocated by law for in this case, frogs.

"This funding is specific for this kind of work and can't be transferred easily to some other action or activity," explained Jef Jaegar, Assistant Research Professor at UNLV.

Easily meaning using it in another area would likely take an act of Congress. In addition, Jef says it would change the way developers get permits. But Commissioner Sisolak says spending taxpayer money efficiently should be the real focus.

"I'm saying no to senior citizens to get hot food and to get assistance with their heating bills but we're feeding this little frog homegrown lettuce but we can't feed a senior citizen a piece of cheese," said Sisolak.

We wanted to know what taxpayers thought about saving the frogs.

"Just like the desert tortoise they've gone overboard, trying to save the desert tortoise and they built little fences along the roads and if they're going to survive they will, it's not a problem," said Phillip Lockwood.

"It's only $270,000 what else, you can't save the economy with that, what are you going to use that for, so why not save the frogs," said Donald Engels.

The proactive approach to helping this species from being extinct is all a matter of perspective.

 "I just don't think that in an economic time that we're facing like today where people have lost their homes, lost their job, their families are breaking apart, they can't afford to eat we can spend this kind of money counting frogs and tadpoles," said Sisolak.

"You either value parts of the natural world or if you don't value them then there isn't any real value to conserve them," said Jef.

there are several volunteers in the program, some from Jef's own class at UNLV. But he says you still need experts to lead the project.  Commissioner Sisolak suggests privatizing the frog project and welcomes anyone who wants to jump up to the plate.

What do you think about the spending? Let us know by leaving a comment below or send an email to 13investigates@ktnv.com