Efforts to protect the mountain yellow-legged frog in Plumas County got a boost from the federal government last week.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that three amphibians native to the Sierra Nevada will be given protections under the Endangered Species Act.
The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the northern distinct population segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog will be listed as endangered and the Yosemite toad as threatened under the ESA.
The final rule announcing the actions published in the Federal Register on April 29 and the final rule will become effective June 30. The final rule and associated documents are available for public inspection at federalregister.gov/public-inspection.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced last month that the brook trout population in one Plumas County lake would be eliminated in an effort to protect the frog.
The CDFW said gillnets would be used in Gold Lake (located in the Bucks Lake Wilderness Area) to remove the trout. The area around the lake has been identified as critical habitat for the yellow-legged frog. Brooktrout, which eat the frogs,areconsidered a threat to the frog population.
The planned trout removal — which has met vocal opposition from local fishermen — is scheduled to take place later this spring.
At the request of Supervisor Lori Simpson, two CDFW representatives were scheduled to attend the Tuesday, May 6, Board of Supervisors meeting. The CDFW representatives were expected to field questions about the proposed trout removal from the supervisors and concerned citizens.
Once abundant, all three recently listed frog species have been in decline for several decades and are now found primarily on publicly managed lands at high elevations including streams, lakes, ponds and meadow habitats located within national forests and national parks.
Studies show that populations of Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog have declined by almost 70 percent while the northern DPS of mountain yellow-legged frog declined by over 80 percent. The Yosemite toad faces similar challenges with range-wide declines estimated at almost 50 percent. The amphibians are spread throughout 17 California counties: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Inyo, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Nevada Placer, Plumas, Sierra, Tulare and Tuolumne.
Habitat degradation, disease, predation and the effects of climate change are reportedly contributing factors to the documented decline of these species and continue to pose a threat to their recovery.
“This final rule is the result of exhaustive research, public comment and scientific peer review,” said Jennifer Norris, field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sacramento Field Office. “While other moderate and minor level threats including historic logging, mining, grazing pressures and recreational use were evaluated, they were not considered significant factors in our determination.”
Being added to the federal list of threatened and endangered species gives protection to these animals from human-caused impacts that could jeopardize their continued existence while at the same time providing a means by which they can be eventually recovered and removed from the list.
On April 25, 2013, the Service published to the Federal Register a proposal to list the amphibians. At the same time, the Service proposed to designate 1,831,820 acres of critical habitat.
A draft economic analysis for that critical habitat proposal was made available to the public Jan. 9. In that timeframe, the Service requested public comment and scientific information during several comment periods.
The Service also held two public meetings and two field hearings, and participated in three congressional public forums sponsored by Congressmen McClintock and LaMalfa.
A final decision on the critical habitat proposal is expected to be made early next year.
The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the northern DPS of the mountain yellow-legged frog are similar in appearance and behavior.
They range from 1.5 to 3.25 inches in length and are a mix of brown and yellow, but can also be gray, red or green-brown. They may have irregular lichen- or moss-like patchiness. Their belly and undersurfaces of the hind limbs are yellow or orange. They produce a distinctive mink or garlic-like order when disturbed.
The Yosemite toad is moderately sized, usually 1.2 – 2.8 inches in length, with rounded to slightly oval glands, one on each side of the head, which produce toxins to [sic\.