Local frogs, toad leap toward endangered list

Amphibians may impact private property owners, recreation

Three of Mono County’s amphibians could be headed for the federal Endangered Species list and while that might not sound exciting, protecting the Yosemite toad, the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the Mountain yellow-legged frog could create several changes to Eastern Sierra communities.

It could mean more than a little impact to private property owners if one of these amphibians happens to live on their property. It could also impact several of the county’s most critical recreation areas, including Rock Creek, Convict Lake, the June Lake Loop, Tioga Pass, Saddlebag, Virginia Lakes, and incorporated areas of Mammoth Lakes.

The issue, according to Scott Burns, Mono County senior planner, is that the maps that accompanied the federal government’s notice of the proposed listing in the Federal Register are so vague, it is hard to tell exactly which lands might be impacted.

The purpose of the maps is to designate “critical habitat” for amphibians.

“Similar to Inyo County, we believe the endangered listing and designation of crucial habitat could significantly impact our local communities, businesses, social attributes, culture, history and economy,” Burns said in a letter to the county supervisors Tuesday.

“(This) …will impact recreation, access trout stocking and or packing and will dramatically reduce these important components of the local economy.”

He urged the county to join Inyo County’s request for a 60-day extension on the comment period for the proposed listing of the amphibians.

The supervisors agreed. Supervisor Tim Fesko was especially appalled at the federal fish and wildlife agency’s move to, as he said, lump small rural counties like Mono County into the Fish and Wildlife Services’ analysis of the possible impacts if the amphibians are listed and conclude the proposed habitat designation would have “no significant impact.”

“They say there will be no significant impact statewide, but we are not the rest of the state,” he said, noting that rural, recreation-based counties like Mono County will bear the largest burden.

The issue is that once a species is listed, the federal government allows no “taking” of the species, i.e., no killing of it, and, it requires suitable habitat be created to protect the species.