Eastern Sierra officials have called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service move to designate critical habitat for frogs and toads a “premature” move that will “unduly harm our society, culture, and economy.” The last day to comment is today by 9pm, although public meetings will likely happen here later. Comment now at this website: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FWS-R8-ES-2012-0074
The federal government has proposed designating what they call Critical Habitat for the Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog, the Mountain Yellow-Legged frog, and the Yosemite Toad. These amphibians eat insects and are eaten by birds and mammals. In short, they are considered an important part of the chain of life in the mountains. The Fish and Wildlife Service has determined they are endangered with the need to set aside habitat to protect them and the need to stop planting trout in certain lakes and streams.
That determination flies in the face of Eastern Sierra tourism and use of the mountains, according to local officials. A letter from the Inyo Supervisors says, “Critical habitat may only be proposed based on the best available scientific data after taking into consideration economic impacts of the designation as well as other considerations such as the social impacts of such a listing.” The letter also says that the Board believes that the proposed critical habitat areas are “overly expansive.” The Board’s letter says they believe that the frogs and toads could prosper with less habitat area.
The Bishop Chamber of Commerce said that the proposed habitat areas would include Rock Creek Lake, Mt. Tom, the Bishop Creek Drainage, Coyote Flat, Big Pine Creek drainage and Onion Valley. Their letter says fishing, camping, hiking and trail riding could be impacted. Jared Smith of Parchers Resort said businesses associated with the restricted areas in the Bishop Creek drainage would “fade away.”
The Inyo Supervisors’ letter says according to the federally proposed rules, the frogs and toads are being impacted “primarily by climate change, pollution and infection” and only marginally by recreation, grazing, packers, fire management and roads. The Board’s letter questions the removal of fish from the critical habitat areas.
The Board asserts that “We know it is possible to protect the habitat for these amphibians without destroying the economy of our county.” They call the proposed habitats “over-reaching” and the wrong solution. The Board said the habitat proposed is not necessary to “preserve healthy and enduring populations of the proposed species.”
Work by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began on the frogs and toads at least six years ago and requires some type of decision by the end of September of this year.