Three Sierra Nevada amphibians get federal protections | SierraSun.com

Three Sierra Nevada amphibians get federal protections

Staff report
The yellow-legged frog's Sierra Nevada habitat is shrinking, and the animal is battling the voracious trout and virulent fungal diseases that threaten to eradicate it.
Courtesy Center for Biological Diversity |

Three amphibians native to the Sierra Nevada 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.

The final rule, which becomes effective June 30, and associated documents are available 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, Moler said: 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, officials 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.

The two species of yellow-legged frogs are similar looking, ranging from 1 and a half to just more than 3 inches long. They come in many colors, including red and gray, and emit a garlic smell when they’re disturbed by predators.

Yosemite toads produce toxins to deter predators, and range in size between 1 and 3 inches.