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For Immediate Release, April 24, 2013

Contact:  Jeff Miller, (415) 669-7357

 Sierra Nevada Frog and Toad Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection,
With 2 Million Acres of Protected Habitat

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— In accordance with an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed federal Endangered Species Act protection for Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs and Yosemite toads, along with more than 2 million acres of proposed critical habitat across the Sierra Nevada mountains. The Service also proposed protection for a population of mountain yellow-legged frogs that lives in the southern Sierra Nevada.

Yosemite toad
Yosemite toad photo by Lucas Wilkinson, U.S. Forest Service. Photos are available for media use.

These protections are the result of a 2011 agreement between the Center and the Service to speed up endangered species protection decisions for 757 imperiled animals and plants around the country. So far, 56 species have been fully protected and another 96 have been proposed for protection under the settlement agreement. The amphibian species proposed for listing today have been waiting more than a decade for protection.

“This is great news for the only native amphibians of the high Sierra Nevada, which have suffered massive declines in recent decades and disappeared from most of the places where they once lived,” said the Center’s Jeff Miller. “These rare frogs and toads will finally get protection and recovery efforts to ensure their survival. Our settlement agreement is also moving protection forward for dozens more of our most endangered plants and animals.”

Yellow-legged frogs throughout the Sierra Nevada have suffered dramatic declines in range and numbers due to habitat destruction and degradation, disease, predation by nonnative trout, pesticides and climate change. Yosemite toads have also disappeared from many areas and suffered population losses, including 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.

“Not too long ago, yellow-legged frogs and Yosemite toads were a common and popular sight in the high Sierras,” said Miller. “Their declines are a warning of the failing health of our high Sierra ecosystems, which are being hurt by habitat loss, rapid climate change, introduced species, pesticide contamination and an amphibian disease epidemic.”

The Service is proposing to designate a total of 2,077,824 acres of critical habitat for the frogs and toads; it identified 1,105,400 acres essential for the protection and recovery of 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.

A Center lawsuit against the California Department of Fish and Wildlife led to restrictions on stocking invasive trout in habitats occupied by the yellow-legged frog throughout the Sierra Nevada. With protection under the Endangered Species Act, both frogs and toads will benefit from greater emphasis on protecting their habitats and development of a recovery plan.

The Center petitioned to protect mountain yellow-legged frogs in the Sierra Nevada in 2000. In response to litigation from the Center, the Service added Sierra frogs to the candidate list in 2003, finding that they warranted protection but that listing was precluded by higher priority species.

Recognizing a recent taxonomic split of the species, today’s rule proposes 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). A 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.
For the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, the Service proposed 1,105,400 acres for designation as critical habitat in Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Alpine, Mariposa, Mono, Madera, Tuolumne, Fresno and Inyo counties, Calif. For the northern “distinct population segment” of the mountain yellow-legged frog,the Service proposed 221,498 acres for designation as critical habitat in Fresno and Tulare counties, Calif. Critical habitat identifies and protects the habitat necessary for the recovery of endangered species. Endangered species with protected critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as those without.

The Center and the Pacific Rivers Council petitioned to protect the Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus) in 2000. The Service added the toad to the candidate list in 2002. Today the Service proposes to designate 750,926 acres of critical habitat for the toad in Alpine, Tuolumne, Mono, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno and Inyo counties, Calif.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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