Imperiled amphibians getting critically needed help from The Center for Biological Diversity, USFWS, by securing critical habitat protections in Sierra Nevada range.
Photo: Rob Grasso/NPS public domain
In a massive effort lead by the Center for Biological Diversity, 1.8 million acres has been as designated as critical habitat in the Sierra Nevada mountains by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in order to save the threatened Yosemite toad and two desperately endangered species of yellow-legged frogs.
The action will not only save the flagship species, themselves, but millions of other plants and animals in the area as well as the fragile ecosystem, itself – land that otherwise could be far game, to be plundered and destroyed for short term gain by industry.
“This is an important step for saving the vanishing amphibians of the high Sierra Nevada, which have suffered massive declines in recent decades and disappeared from most of the Sierra lakes and streams where they once lived,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Jeff Miller. “The Endangered Species Act is our best tool for preventing their extinction, and protecting some of the most important high-elevation amphibian habitat will give them a fighting chance at recovery.”
Species are in decline
California’s distinctive Yellow-legged frogs have been drastically reduced to less than 10% of their historic numbers due to development, climate change, pesticides, pollution, and the introduction of disease and species such as non-native trout, combined with habitat disruption, destruction and fragmentation. Populations of the unique Yosemite toad, similarly, have been reduced by 50%. In the place where they were first discovered,Yosemite National Park, they’ve vanished entirely. Alarmingly, loss of genetic diversity and access to unrelated breeding partners can destroy remnant populations of any species due to the effects of inbreeding. The trick is to never let any species decline this catastrophically in the first place.
Livestock grazing is a major culprit in the loss of biological diversity world-wide, which is very much the case here, with millions of privately-owned, grown-for-profit cattle being ranched for nearly-free on our fragile public lands (while being subsidized by each of us through our tax dollars). Domesticated cattle destroy streams, wetlands and riparian habitats,damage or eliminate native forage, spread weeds, degrade soil and water and ruin habitat for the native wildlife that belongs there.
The importance of the Critical Habitat designation
By officially designating an area ‘critical habitat‘, federal agencies will be prohibited from authorizing or engaging in activities in that areas that will further jeopardize the survival of listed species. One of the beautiful things about the ESA (Endangered Species Act) is that for every species protected, a wide range of other native species also benefits, including trees, flowers and insects, which proves vitally important in preventing more declines in the quality of any remaining habitats we can then identify and preserve.
“Yellow-legged frogs and Yosemite toads were a common sight in the high Sierras until fairly recently,” said Miller in the press release. “Their rapid declines are a warning of the failing health of our high Sierra ecosystems. Critical habitat will not only protect these amphibians but will also protect water bodies, riparian areas and wet meadows that provide fresh, clean water for many Californians and habitat for other species.”
The Center’s great work for amphibians
The Center for Biological Diversity has been championing the future of amphibians since its inception. The Center petitioned to protect the yellow-legged frog and Yosemite toad under the Endangered Species Act back in 2000. Sierra Nevada and mountain yellow-legged frogs (northern population) were officially declared and designated as Endangered in 2014. Yosemite toads, with help from the Pacific Rivers Council, were also listed as Threatened that same year. A separate, southern species population of yellow-legged frog was protected in 2002.