On Thursday, the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to add both species of the mountain yellow-legged frog to the list of animals protected under California's Endangered Species Act (ESA). The southern mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) was listed as "endangered" and the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae) was listed as "threatened". The reasons given for these different designations included a more severe decline and more highly fragmented distribution in R. muscosa than in R. sierrae.
To start discussion of the frog agenda item, the chief of the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Fisheries Branch, Stafford Lehr, gave a summary of the DFG mountain yellow-legged frog status review, and made the recommendation that both species be listed under the California ESA. After Mr. Lehr answered a few questions from the Commission, DFG Director Chuck Bonham made a brief statement in which he reaffirmed the DFG mission to protect California's biodiversity. Lisa Belenky from the Center for Biological Diversity (the group that originally petitioned the DFG to list both species) took the podium, commended the DFG status review for its thoroughness, and stated that although she thought both frog species should be listed as "endangered" she supported the DFG recommendations. With that, the Commission voted 5-0 to list both species. It was over in less than 30 minutes.
What made this listing decision different from most previous such decisions was the almost complete lack of controversy. Lehr, Bonham, and members of the Commission all mentioned that the unusually large amount of information associated with both species of the mountain yellow-legged frog provided a solid foundation for the DFGs threatened/endangered recommendation. I've long argued that science can (and should) play an important role in helping to resolve natural resource issues, and this listing decision strongly supported that role. Science clearly cannot provide all of the answers, but when conducted in a thorough manner it can at least provide sideboards to resource-related discussions.
In my next post, I'll discuss what this listing likely means for frogs and potentially-affected user groups (e.g., anglers).
Back to The Mountain Yellow-legged Frog Site.