Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Budgetary Constraints Preclude Service from Listing Yosemite Toad

December 10, 2002


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

SACRAMENTO, Calif--The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that the Yosemite toad, an amphibian native to the high country of California’s Sierra Nevada range, may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, budgetary constraints preclude the Service from listing the toad as threatened or endangered at this time.

The Service will add the Yosemite toad to its list of candidate species and review the toad’s status in a year.

To comply with a court order, the Service completed a year-long review – known as a 12-month finding – and determined that there is sufficient scientific and commercial data to list the species throughout its range.

"The Service is so backed up with other court-ordered actions, including requirements that we respond to petitions, listings and critical-habitat designations, that we don’t have the staff or resources to complete the listing," said Steve Thompson, Manager of the Service’s California/Nevada Operations Office.

In April 2000, the Service was petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Rivers Council to list the Yosemite toad as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The petitioners also requested that critical habitat be designated concurrent with listing. In October 2000, the Service completed a 90-day finding and concluded that the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information to support listing. Today’s action completing a 12-month review is being published in the Federal Register, per a court-ordered publication date.

The Yosemite toad is a high-elevation species found in the central Sierra Nevada mountains. The current range of the Yosemite toad extends from Ebbetts Pass in Alpine County to south of Kaiser Pass and Evolution Lake, Fresno County. The Yosemite toad commonly occurs at elevations between 8,000 and 10,000 feet.

In making this finding, the Service recognizes that there may have been declines in the distribution and abundance of Yosemite toads. The best available evidence indicates that some toad populations have declined by at least 50 percent from historical levels. These declines are primarily attributed to habitat degradation, airborne contaminants and drought. Declines in Yosemite toad populations have occurred in Yosemite National Park, the heart of the species’ range, and throughout the Sierra Nevada.

More than 90 percent of Yosemite toad habitat occurs within U.S. Forest Service wilderness areas and on National Park Service lands. The Forest Service has proposed several standards and guidelines to protect and enhance the Yosemite toad and its habitat. One of these guidelines is to develop and implement a conservation strategy for the Yosemite toad with the Service. The Forest Service believes it can take measures to improve Yosemite toad habitat through better management of livestock grazing and fish stocking on lands that it manages.

Amphibians worldwide appear to be declining, and several of California’s native amphibians besides the Yosemite toad are already listed. The California red-legged frog, southern California population of mountain yellow-legged frog, and the arroyo toad are Federally protected. And two populations of tiger salamanders, in Santa Barbara County and more recently in Sonoma County, required emergency listing. Scientists consider amphibians as good "indicators" of significant environmental changes that may go initially undetected by humans.

The Yosemite toad is a member of the Boreas-canorus group, the most primitive of three evolutionary lines of the North American Bufo family of toads. More information about the toad and today’s action can be found at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office’s Home Page at

Should the Service in the future propose to list the Yosemite toad as either threatened or endangered, the public would then have an opportunity to comment on the proposal before any final decision is made.

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