The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that the Final Rule for listing of the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the Northern Distinct Population Segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog as Endangered Species and the Yosemite toad as a Threatened Species is pending publication in the April 29, 2014 edition of the Federal Register.
Background: The current listing effort is the result of a lawsuit settlement between the USFWS and Center for Biological Diversity.
The frogs and toads have been on U.S. Forest Service "species of concern" list for more than 14 years. As such, they were addressed in the 2000 Sierra Nevada Framework (SNF) with defined management prescriptions as if they were formally listed species. As such, grazing, logging and recreation activities have lived under the SNF prescriptions which treated the species as listed on the Threatened and Endangered Species List.
This means that when U.S. Forest Service travel management was conducted, the SNF was one of the tiered documents reviewed to determine impact of designating the route. As such, USFS routes can be (or should be) considered to be in compliance with ESA listing.
Note, I said "should be" considered in compliance.
Impact: The major impact of this designation is going to be felt by the counties. Specifically, ESA and accompanying critical habitat do not recognize private vs public land boundaries. The ESA listing has the potential to limit uses of private property and possible property tax revenue that provides a major source of county income.
For the most part, activities on public lands (logging, grazing, and OHV) are already managed in compliance with the listing.
While I expect minimal impact to OHV routes, I do expect the environmental community to push the envelope to see what extra concessions they can extract that will limit OHV recreation.
Concerns: When the issue was first raised, I noted that it is primarily a county/private land issue. OHV recreation has a small dog in this fight. From the OHV perspective, I believe many issues can be resolved through the administrative process. From the environmental perspective, I fully expect they will use this issue to revisit travel management and attempt to force route closures.
USFWS Press Release
Three California Amphibians to Get Federal Protections under the Endangered Species Act
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that three amphibians native to the Sierra Nevada will be given protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the northern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) 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 is expected to publish in the Federal Register on April 29, 2014 and the final rule will become effective on June 30, 2014. The final rule and associated documents will be available for public inspection today at: 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. 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 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 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 on January 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 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 grey, 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 deter some predators. The iris of the eye is dark brown with gold reflective cells.
America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. We’re working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover all three amphibian species.
For more information on these species and the final listing rule, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/sacramento/outreach/Public-Advisories/SierraAmphibian_Proposals/outreach_PA_SierraAmphibian_Proposals.htm