October 11, 2010

Back from a Summer in the Mountains

It has been months since I've added any posts. My only excuse is that I've been in the mountains almost continuously since mid-June conducting research. I've been impressed at the number of people who emailed me during my absence from the blogosphere to make sure I hadn't abandoned my practice of regular posts related to the mountain yellow-legged frog. Rest assured that I have not. Now that my field season is over I'll do my best to again provide updates on a more regular basis. 

Of the many frog-related happenings that occurred this summer, perhaps the most important was a decision on September 15 by the California Fish and Game Commission to designate the mountain yellow-legged frog (both Rana sierrae and Rana muscosa) as a "candidate" species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). This action was taken in response to a petition submitted earlier this year by the Center for Biological Diversity. The California Department of Fish and Game now has one year to develop a formal status review that will recommend whether or not the mountain yellow-legged frog should be listed. 

During the one-year review period, the CESA requires that candidate species be treated as if they were already listed. This is an important difference between the Federal and California Endangered Species Acts. Under the Federal ESA, a candidate species has no formal status until it is actually listed. Because of the potential for the new "candidate" status of the mountain yellow-legged frog to immediately impact a wide variety of ongoing activities the Commission adopted a series of "take" exemptions (i.e., exemptions for actions that could potentially result in harassment or mortality of mountain yellow-legged frogs). 

Exempted actions include those for the Department's ongoing fish stocking programs (no surprise there), timber harvest, reservoir operations, and scientific research. Although some have expressed their displeasure with these exemptions, I support them because they will provide individuals and agencies with some breathing room to continue already-permitted activities during the one-year review period. The negatively publicity that could result from an immediate shutting down of these existing projects (especially fish stocking) would likely have more long-lasting negative effects on frog conservation efforts than these projects would. 

So, by next October we'll get an up-or-down vote by the Commission on the listing status of the mountain yellow-legged frog. If the frog is listed under CESA I suspect that efforts to conserve and restore populations of this imperiled species will ramp up to a level not yet seen.

Back to The Mountain Yellow-legged Frog Site.

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