Questions still remain in the minds of some about U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ plan for critical habitat designations to protect some frogs and toads in the High Sierra. Will the plan eliminate trout-planting in high country lakes like South Lake and Rock Creek Lake? How would the loss of the amphibians impact other creatures?
I asked Wildlife Public Information Officer Robert Moler. He said he could not tell us at this point about trout-planting. Moler said, “Each activity is thoroughly evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time the federal agency involved consults with the Fish and Wildlife Service.” So, in short, the Forest Service would make decisions about activities like trout plants under critical habitat designation but also consult with Fish and Wildlife.
Cheryl Chipman, acting public information officer for the Inyo Forest, said discussions on the critical habitat proposal have not started yet. She said the two agencies do work together. Mr. Moler confirmed that and said that the Wildlife Service “is already working closely with the U.S. Forest Service regarding the conservation of these frogs.” He also said that the Forest Service is “ultimately responsible for land management decisions within their jurisdiction.”
While Inyo and Mono people worry about impacts on fishing and tourism, the Fish and Wildlife Service has serious concerns about the web of life in our mountain areas. Mr. Moler said biologists he works with referred him to a natural history website which says that the mountain yellow-legged frog plays a unique role in aquatic ecosystems. The site also says that the frogs occupy different levels in the food web instead of just one like most creatures.
The frogs start life as tadpoles that feed on algae. As a grown frog, they become predators, feeding on insects. Plus the frogs themselves are important pray for snakes, birds, coyotes and bears. So, all those species would be affected with the loss of the frogs.
The biologists say that since the frogs occupy several levels of the food chain, “It is clear that the loss of mountain yellow-legged frogs as predator, prey, and herbivore could cause profound changes to aquatic ecosystems.” Public comment on habitat plans is open through November 18th. Go to http://www.regulations.gov