Frog delay welcome

By From page A4 | July 29, 2013

We congratulate the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for agreeing to a 120-day delay on listing the yellow-legged frog and the Yosemite toad as endangered species and setting aside 1.8 million acres as critical habitat.

Among the groups besides local officials that were upset over the limited comment period were the California Farm Bureau. Joining the CFB were the California Cattlemen’s Association, California Wool Growers Association, the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The USFWS seems to have uncritically accepted the claims of environmental organizations that cattle grazing is having some effect on yellow legged frogs.

In the April 25 Federal Register the USFWS wrote the following: “However, other human activities have played a role in the modification of mountain yellow-legged frog habitats and the curtailment of their range. The aggregation of these threats has degraded and fragmented habitats rangewide to a significant extent. These threats include: Recreational activities, fish introductions, dams and water diversions, livestock grazing, timber management, road construction and maintenance, and fire management activities. Such activities have degraded habitat in ways that have reduced their capacity to sustain viable populations and have fragmented and isolated mountain yellow-legged frog populations from each other.”

The California Farm Bureau and its associated groups, however, said the USFWS “had ignored scientific findings that conclude livestock grazing is an unlikely factor in declines of the species’ populations,”  wrote Assistant Ag Alert Editor Kate Campbell in the July 10 issue.

“The USFWS should rely only on factors that have been plainly demonstrated to be major drivers in the declining populations — disease and trout stocking,” said the joint letter from CFB and the livestock groups. “An analysis of how disease and fish stocking may be mitigated in a way that will result in stabilization and ultimate growth of the population is necessary.”

Besides blaming cattle, the USFWS also blames hikers: “Recreational foot traffic in riparian areas tramples the vegetation, compacts the soils, and can physically damage the streambanks.” Oh, and those fishermen are trampling the lakes’ shorelines.

But the craziest notion is global warming is killing off the frogs. Well, if there really is global warming and it really is boiling frogs, then nothing the Fish and Wildlife Service can do will stop it. This is a major nonsequitur and total nonsense.

But stop the Federal Register presses. Global temperatures have been flat for the last 15 years, according to Dr. Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. So much for slow boiling frogs. The Federal Register has one reference to disease. It should do nothing but talk about disease. It’s a fungus that’s killing off the yellow-legged frogs and it’s being transmitted by the Pacific chorus frog, which is migrating upstream and across land and carrying its fungus to which it is largely immune and to which the yellow-legged frog is highly susceptible.

Critical habitat designation, from the descriptions listed above sounds like it is going to exclude anglers, hikers, cattle and timber harvesting. The Federal Register even blames fire fighting in the decline of the frogs.

The ultimate culprit is fungal disease, which, according to Professor Vance Vredenburg of San Francisco State University, has shrunken the Sierra yellow-legged frog to 5 percent of its former range.

Critical habitat designation isn’t going to do diddly-squat for the yellow-legged frog. Figuring out how to give it immunity to the fungus ought to be the highest priority.

Mountain Democrat

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