Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 20, 2018

Contact: Jennifer Loda, (510) 844-7100 x 336,

Recovery Plan Released for Endangered Southern California Frog

Proposal Calls for Reestablishing Populations, Managing Non-native Predators, Disease, Pollutants

LOS ANGELES— Partially satisfying a settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft recovery plan on Thursday for the endangered Southern California population of mountain yellow-legged frogs.

The plan calls for a wide array of recovery actions and research efforts to deal with the many threats to the survival of these highly endangered frogs. The settlement agreement requires the agency to publish a final recovery plan by the end of this year.

“Time’s running out for these rare amphibians, so I’m relieved we finally have this roadmap that’s so urgently needed for their survival,” said Jenny Loda, a Center biologist and attorney dedicated to protecting rare amphibians and reptiles. “If we’re going to save these unique frogs from extinction, we’ve got to protect them from threats like non-native predators and pollution. This plan is a strong start.”

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 were thought to remain, in a handful of isolated headwater streams. Predation by introduced fish, primarily rainbow trout, is one of the best-documented causes of the frogs’ decline. Another threat is habitat damage from recreation.

The recovery plan prioritizes the continuation of captive-breeding efforts, augmentation of existing populations and reestablishment of populations in areas where the frogs historically lived. It also addresses predatory non-native trout and harmful pollutants, such as chemicals used in wildfire management and on illegal marijuana plantations. The plan calls for range-wide surveys and monitoring, research on genetic diversity and chytrid fungus and reducing recreational impacts.  

“Because we’re already down to so few of these frogs remaining in the wild, bringing them back from the brink won’t be easy,” said Loda. “But we can’t afford to lose these beautiful amphibians, so I hope federal, state and local agencies all step up to support the important work of recovery.”

Although the Southern California population of mountain yellow-legged frogs has been protected under the Endangered Species Act for more than 15 years, the Fish and Wildlife Service had not developed a required recovery plan to guide their management.

In February of 2014 the Center sued the U.S. Department of the Interior for failing to develop such a plan for the endangered frogs. The draft plan released today is the result of the October 2014 settlement agreement of that lawsuit.

Recovery plans are the main tool for identifying actions necessary to save endangered species from extinction and eventually remove their protection under the Endangered Species Act. Research by the Center has found that the status of species with dedicated recovery plans for two or more years is far more likely to be improving than the status of those without.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comment on the draft plan until Sept. 17.

The mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) occupies rocky, 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 Southern California’s mountain yellow-legged frogs lived across a wide range of elevations and in a wide variety of wetland habitats. The animals are now limited to 10 precariously small populations in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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