updated 9/29/2005 11:55:25 AM ET 2005-09-29T15:55:25

A toad that environmentalists say is being killed off by an invasive fungus that may have originated in Africa is no longer a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced.

The agency, which administers the act, said Wednesday it's dropping the boreal toad from the list because it is a subspecies of a toad whose habitat ranges from Alaska to New Mexico.

Erin Robertson of the Center for Native Ecosystems said the group will file a lawsuit challenging the decision.

Developers have had to work around the toad's habitat since it was listed as a potential candidate for protection in 1995.

Several state road projects have added costly toad underpasses, and a ski slope developer agreed to build a new toad habitat in Breckenridge, deed wetlands to the town and fund toad studies in order to expand a ski area.

Some biologists say getting the toad delisted may speed the pace of research on the amphibian, which could benefit it in the long run.

"When something is listed, we have to get special permits to do experiments with them," said Cindy Carey, a professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado.

"This will help us make rapid progress on understanding the toad's genetics and the fungus," Carey said.

Future genetic studies could prove that the Colorado toads are a separate species, or help researchers breed resistance to the deadly fungus.

The toad lives in high elevation streams and ponds in the Rocky Mountains from southern Wyoming to New Mexico.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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