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UPDATE 1-U.S. top court takes up property rights case involving endangered frog

frog@ (Adds Weyerhaeuser involvement, background on dispute, high court declining to hear another endangered species case)

WASHINGTON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed hear a bid by timber company Weyerhaeuser Co seeking to limit the federal government's power to designate private land as critical habitat for endangered species in a case involving a warty amphibian called the dusky gopher frog.

Weyerhaeuser harvests timber on the Louisiana land in question and is backed in the case by business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Weyerhaeuser challenged a lower court ruling upholding a 2012 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to include private land where the frog does not currently live as critical habitat, putting limits on future development opportunities.

The case pits property rights against federal conservation measures. The frog, found only in four locations in southern Mississippi, also previously inhabited Louisiana and Alabama.

The U.S. government identified the Louisiana land partly owned by Weyerhaeuser as meeting the criteria for the frog's habitat under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The court did not act on a similar appeal brought by owners of other parcels of the land.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's critical habitat designation covered the tract of 1,544 acres (about 625 hectares) of private land in Louisiana as well as nearly 5,000 acres (about 2,025 hectares) in Mississippi. The owners of the Louisiana land filed a legal challenge to the designation, saying it would infringe on their rights to use the property as they see fit.

The frog has been listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act since 2001. Critical habitat is defined as an area essential to the conservation of a species that may require special management or protection.

In another endangered species case, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to federal protections for a rare species of seal that were based on projections of future loss of habitat attributed to climate change.

The decision not to hear appeals brought by the state of Alaska and industry groups left in place a 2012 decision by the administration of former President Barack Obama to protect a subspecies of the bearded seal that lives mainly off the coast of Alaska.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)