For Immediate Release, November 14, 2013

Contact: Collette Adkins Giese, (651) 955-3821

Lawsuit Launched to Speed Recovery of Endangered California Frogs

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Interior Department today for failing to develop a recovery plan for Southern California’s mountain yellow-legged frogs. Although these frogs have been protected under the Endangered Species Act for over a decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to develop the recovery plan that’s needed to save them from extinction.

Mountain yellow-legged frog
Photo by Adam Backlin, USGS. This photo is available for media use.

“A recovery plan would make the difference between life and death for these extremely rare frogs,” said Collette Adkins Giese, the Center’s attorney and biologist dedicated to protecting rare amphibians and reptiles. “These animals have been on the endangered species list since 2002 and face so many forces that could drive them extinct.”

Recovery plans are a legally required, key tool for identifying actions necessary to save endangered species and eventually be able to remove their Endangered Species Act protection. Species with dedicated recovery plans are significantly more likely to be improving than species without.

Since the 1900s mountain yellow-legged frogs have disappeared from nearly all of their former range in Southern California. By the 1990s fewer than 100 individuals were thought to remain, surviving only in isolated headwater streams in a few areas. Predation by introduced fish, primarily rainbow trout, is one of the best-documented causes of these frogs’ decline. Another primary threat is habitat alteration and degradation caused by recreation and other factors.

“Exotic predators and habitat destruction are pushing Southern California mountain yellow-legged frogs to the brink of extinction,” said Adkins Giese. “We need a concrete plan to address these threats.”

The mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) occupies rocky and shaded streams with cool waters originating from springs and snowmelt. A “distinct population segment” of mountain yellow-legged frogs in Southern California has been federally listed as endangered since 2002. Historically, mountain yellow-legged frogs in Southern California lived across a wide elevation range and in a wide variety of wetland habitats, but the frogs are now limited to nine precariously small populations in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains.

In April 2013 the Service proposed Endangered Species Act protection for mountain yellow-legged frogs in the Sierra Nevada. Specifically the Service proposed to separately list the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae) and the northern “distinct population segment” of the mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa), at the same time designating critical habitat of more than 1.1 million acres and 221,000 acres, respectively, for the frogs.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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