Bench trial in endangered frog habitat suit

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge is considering the claim that federal wildlife officials made an illegal land grab by listing 1,500 acres of private land in Louisiana as critical habitat for an endangered burrowing frog: the dusky gopher frog.

District Judge Martin Feldman told lawyers for landowners, the U.S. government and an environmental group Wednesday that he’ll rule as soon as possible.

Feldman told the lawyers his biggest concerns include whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service followed proper procedures, and the agency’s estimate that the designation could cost landowners up to $33 million.

Justice Department attorney Mary Hollingsworth says that’s an unlikely extreme if the owners wanted to develop the timberland.

Weyerhaeuser Co. attorney Zach Hiatt says that’s not out of the question, since the land is near a developed area.