Officials and citizens of Inyo and Mono have publicly opposed efforts to create Critical Habitat Designations for two types of mountain frogs and the Yosemite Toad. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman assured Sierra Wave that his agency can not and does not close these areas to public access and that current resorts would not be impacted at all. He said that’s not what Critical Habitat Designations are about.
Robert Moler of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service said the habit designation would come into play if new buildings or projects were proposed. He said even then, his agency would work with the developer to mitigate impacts. Said Moler, “This does not limit access.” He said the habit designations would have no impact on existing resorts.
To concerns that the Forest Service would use the new designations to close access or impede public recreation, Moler said he has never heard of the Forest Service using a Critical Habitat Designation to keep the public out.
So, if not to limit access or shut down activities, what is a Critical Habitat Designation about? Moler did say there is still some question about fish stocking in the upper elevations. He said that Critical Habitat Designations are about education of the public that the potentially endangered or threatened species live there.
Moler said if the Forest Service or National Park Service want to create a major project, they would have to find no impacts on the amphibians in this kind of designation; or if there are impacts, they would have to consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Moler repeated that these Critical Habitat Designations are about education and future development. He said, “This will not impact existing lodges at all.” Moler also pointed out that a lot of critical habitats are in Wilderness where the public does have access.
Moler was not sure if there would be public meetings in Inyo or Mono. He said the Fish and Wildlife Service is looking at the possibility. He did speak of re-opening the public comment period. In a press release from Moler and others in late April, the agency says, “All three amphibian species are threatened by habitat degradation, predation, climate change and inadequate regulatory protection.”