SACRAMENTO, Calif.—(ENEWSPF)–August 25, 2016. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced designation of 1,812,164 acres of protected “critical habitat” throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains for several endangered amphibians: the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, Yosemite toad and northern population of the mountain yellow-legged frog. The vast majority of the critical habitat for these amphibians is on federal public lands in national forests and national parks.
“This is an important step for saving the vanishing amphibians of the high Sierra Nevada, which have suffered massive declines in recent decades and disappeared from most of the Sierra lakes and streams where they once lived,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Jeff Miller. “The Endangered Species Act is our best tool for preventing their extinction, and protecting some of the most important high-elevation amphibian habitat will give them a fighting chance at recovery.”
Sierra Nevada and mountain yellow-legged frogs have declined by about 90 percent throughout the Sierras due to habitat destruction and degradation, disease, predation by non-native trout, pesticides and climate change. More than half of former Yosemite toad populations are now gone, including those in Yosemite National Park, where these toads were first discovered and given their name. Yosemite toads are threatened primarily by livestock grazing, climate change and pesticides.
Designating critical habitat identifies and protects the habitat necessary for the recovery of endangered species and ensures that federal agencies don’t take actions which degrade or destroy essential habitat. The Service designated 1,082,147 acres of critical habitat for the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog; 221,498 acres for the northern population of the mountain yellow-legged frog; and 750,926 acres for the Yosemite toad. There is some overlap in the habitat areas. Research indicates that protected species with designated critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as those without it.
“Yellow-legged frogs and Yosemite toads were a common sight in the high Sierras until fairly recently,” said Miller. “Their rapid declines are a warning of the failing health of our high Sierra ecosystems. Critical habitat will not only protect these amphibians but will also protect water bodies, riparian areas and wet meadows that provide fresh, clean water for many Californians and habitat for other species.”
The Center petitioned to protect mountain yellow-legged frogs in the Sierra Nevada under the Endangered Species Act in 2000. A recent taxonomic split of the species separated the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae) and the northern population of the mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa). Both yellow-legged frog species were protected as endangered in 2014. A separate, southern population of the mountain yellow-legged frog, found in the Transverse Ranges of Southern California, has been listed as an endangered species since 2002. The Center and the Pacific Rivers Council petitioned to protect the Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus) in 2000. The toad was protected as a threatened species in 2014.
The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog critical habitat is in Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Inyo, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sierra and Tuolumne counties; it encompasses areas of the Eldorado, Humboldt-Toiyabe, Inyo, Lassen, Plumas, Sierra, Stanislaus and Tahoe national forests, as well as Kings Canyon and Yosemite national parks. The critical habitat for the northern population of the mountain yellow-legged frog is in Fresno, Inyo and Tulare counties; it includes portions of Inyo and Sequoia national forests, as well as Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. The Yosemite toad critical habitat is in Alpine, Fresno, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa, Mono and Tuolumne counties; it is primarily within the Eldorado, Humboldt-Toiyabe, Inyo, Sierra and Stanislaus national forests, as well as Kings Canyon and Yosemite national parks.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.