Lawsuit over endangered frog in California

This is a mountain yellow-legged frog. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This is a mountain yellow-legged frog. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Ribbit ribbit. The nonprofit conservation organization Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit on Nov. 14 against the U.S. Dept. of Interior over protection of the Southern California population of the mountain yellow-legged frog. The frogs have been on the Endangered Species list since 2002, and the Center says the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has yet to come up with a recovery plan to prevent their extinction.

The frogs, once abundant in the Sierra Nevada and Transverse Ranges of California, have dwindled due to disease, loss of habitat, pesticides and the introduction of nonnative fish — they’ve been chomped nearly into oblivion in high-elevation lakes where there are hatchery trout. By the 1990s, fewer than 100 frogs were thought to remain in isolated headwater streams in SoCal.

There have been attempts to restore their population. In June, 100 frogs raised in captivity — some at the San Diego Zoo— were released into the wild at the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve in the San Bernardino National Forest. Some of the frogs are outfitted with radio transmitters so researchers can track their movements.

So, why should we as outdoor lovers and recreationists care about an amphibian cloaked in a nasty lawsuit? Well, for one thing, these slimy guys are part of the ecosystem that make life in California and the rest of the West so biologically rich. But to save them, it might mean sacrifice on the part of us humans. It may mean fewer stocked trout in the Sierra (hey, those puny native trout are more fun to catch anyway). And since 2005 it’s inconvenienced hikers in SoCal. Case in point: thru-hikers on the PCT have a 20-mile detour (see maps below) around protected yellow-legged frog habitat near Mt. Williamson in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Day hikers can still hike from Islip Saddle to Eagle’s Roost, the point where the PCT area closure is, but can’t continue on the PCT to Burkhart Saddle. I feel for thru-hikers, especially with the abundance of the dreaded Poodledog bush in the detour area, but I’ll bet old yellow-legs appreciates it. Ribbit.

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