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Three tiny high-altitude amphibians are at the heart of a county and state-wide controversy that could affect some of Mono County’s most popular recreation areas and agricultural areas, including Rock Creek, Convict Lake, the June Lake Loop, Saddlebag Lakes and more. The request for an extension was recently granted and the comment period now closes on Nov. 18.
The Mountain yellow-legged frog, the Yosemite toad, and the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog are all native species that inhabit some high country wetlands, lakes, and creeks.
According to the state’s fish and wildlife department, they are doing so in increasingly limited numbers.
“These three amphibian species live only in parts of California’s higher elevations,” the federal Fish and Wildlife Service stated in its environmental review document for the proposed listing action.
“The science on the species indicates that their survival is at serious risk by habitat degradation, predation, climate change, and inadequate regulatory protection. The service has proposed protections for these species under the Endangered Species Act.”
Should the amphibians get listed, regulations that prevent killing the animals or seriously impacting their habitat would be prohibited.
The news that the amphibians might be listed has sent a wave of consternation though Mono County’s rural recreation and agriculture-based economy.
“When it comes to choosing between a frog and people, that’s where there just has to be some balance,” said a frustrated Tim Fesko, the Mono County Supervisor for tourism and agriculture-rich District 4, most of which is in Northern Mono County where the Antelope Valley and Bridgeport Valley host large ranches and produce other agricultural products.
He said his constituents are worried that protecting the amphibians might require water diversions away from agriculture, or might require ranchers to take expensive steps to protect the amphibians, if they are found on their grazing land.
If the amphibians are listed, the designation could also affect tourism, a much larger share of the county’s total economic output.
One of the biggest worries is regarding recreational fishing. Non-native trout stocking programs (non-native trout eat the amphibians’ eggs) has helped to plummet amphibian numbers over the past decades, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Other activities, such as hiking, biking, and ATV riding, might also be affected, according to public comments on the issue.
On Tuesday, the Mono County Board of Supervisors took action by writing a letter expressing their concerns and sending a county representative to Sonora for a public hearing on the issue.
California Fourth District Representative Tom McClintock sponsored the hearing Tuesday. His district includes Yosemite National Park, another area that would be affected by the listing.
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors also directed a letter at the Fish and Wildlife Service, including many of the same concerns Mono County officials addressed.
IF YOU WANT TO COMMENT
The Fish and Wildlife Service seeks information regarding any threats to the species and regulations that may address those threats. The service will accept comments through Nov. 18 on the two proposed rules. Comments may be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov.
The Docket Number for the proposed listing rule is
FWS–R8–ES–2012–0100 and for the proposed critical habitat rule is FWS–R8–ES–2012–0074.
Comments can also be sent by U.S. mail to:
Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS–R8–ES–2012–0100 or FWS–R8–ES–2012–0074
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203