Three Sierra amphibians to be protected
Three amphibians native to the Sierra Nevada, including one found in Douglas County, will be given protections under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Friday.
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 act. Mountain yellow-legged frogs range from Douglas County south to San Diego. The Yosemite toad ranges from the Northern Mono County, south across Yosemite, and into Inyo and Tulare counties.
The final rule announcing the actions is expected to publish in the Federal Register on Tuesday and the final rule will become effective on June 30.
The final rule and associated documents will be available for public inspection at http://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection.
Once abundant, all three 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, the service said.
“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,” said Robert Moler of the service’s external affairs office. “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 contributing factors to the documented decline of these species and continue to pose a threat to their recovery, the service said.
“This final rule is the result of exhaustive research, public comment, and scientific peer review,” said Jennifer Norris, field supervisor for the 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 Friday, 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 on Jan. 9, 2014. In that timeframe, the service requested public comment and scientific information during several comment periods. The service also held two public meetings, two field hearings, and participated in three Congressional public meetings.
A final decision on the critical habitat proposal is expected to be made early next year.