Public Advisory

Critical Habitat Designated for Three Sierra Amphibians

Designation helps recover threatened frogs & streamline federal land activities permit process


August 25, 2016

Media Contact:
Veronica Davison, External Affairs, Phone: (916) 414-6671, Email: veronica_davison@fws.gov

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has designated critical habitat for three Sierra amphibian species – Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, mountain yellow-legged frog, and Yosemite toad. All three were listed in 2014 as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Designation of critical habitat for these species is designed to assist with their recovery. Most of the critical habitat for the frogs is on federal land, with significant overlap lands designated for each species.

Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog

Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog
Photo Credit: Chad Mellison

The total acreage the Service identified as required to recover the three species is 1,812,164 acres. Based on more than 800 comments received during the two comment periods and numerous public meetings, the total area designated was reduced by 23,229 acres.

The Service also released the final economic analysis of the critical habitat designation, with the projected cost for all three species between $760,000 and $1,700,000 over the next 20 years. These are primarily for consultations and updated analyses conducted by federal agencies.

“The designation of critical habitat is an essential, final step in the listing process that will not only help us better conserve these imperiled species but recover and delist them,” said Jennifer Norris, Ph.D., field supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. “The Service has been working diligently with our partners, including the Forest Service and the state of California, to ensure both effective conservation and continued multiple uses of our public land.”

The critical habitat designation may be used to better focus efforts undertaken by the National Park Service and others to help these species survive chytrid fungus—a disease that is decimating amphibian populations worldwide.

Frog Species Designations

Mountain yellow-legged frog

Mountain yellow-legged frog

Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog: The critical habitat for this species includes lands within California’s Lassen, Butte, Plumas, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Alpine, Tuolumne, Mono, Mariposa, Madera, and Fresno counties. This area represents approximately 18 percent of the historical range of the species. Land ownership consists of 1,002,633 acres of public lands and 79,481 acres of privately owned lands. Of the federal lands, 71 percent are in designated wilderness areas, the highest level of conservation protection for federal lands.

Northern DPS of the Mountain yellow-legged frog: The critical habitat for this species includes lands within California’s Fresno and Tulare counties. This area represents approximately 9 percent of the historical range of the species. Land ownership consists of 221,474 acres of public lands and 24 acres of privately owned lands. Of the federal lands, 98 percent are in designated wilderness.

Yosemite toad: The critical habitat for this species includes lands within California’s Alpine, Tuolumne, Mono, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, and Inyo counties. Land ownership consists of 746,548 acres of public lands and 4,376 acres of privately owned lands. Of federal lands, 75 percent are in designated wilderness areas.

Yosemite Toad

Yosemtie Toad

Land use in the designated critical habitat areas consists primarily of high-elevation wilderness and forested lands with multiple uses, including recreation, fire and timber management, livestock grazing, and mining. Recreational activities in these areas should not significantly threaten the recovery of these species.

Identifying critical habitat does not create a refuge, alter land use, or change ownership. Activities on private lands that do not require federal permits or receive funding are not affected by a critical habitat designation. Critical habitat contains the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species, or is otherwise essential for the conservation of the species. A critical habitat designation requires federal agencies to consider the needs of the species when they authorize, fund, or carry out a project on lands designated as critical habitat.

The Final Rule designating critical habitat for the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, the mountain yellow-legged frog, and the Yosemite toad is available for public inspection today at: https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection.


Three California Amphibians to Get Federal Protections under the Endangered Species Act

April 25, 2014

Media Contacts:
Robert Moler, (916)414-6606   robert_moler@fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that three amphibians native to the Sierra Nevada will be given protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the northern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the mountain yellow-legged frog will be listed as endangered and the Yosemite toad as threatened under the ESA. The final rule announcing the actions is expected to publish in the Federal Register on April 29, 2014 and the final rule will become effective on June 30, 2014. The final rule and associated documents will be available for public inspection today at: www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection.

Once abundant, all three species have been in decline for several decades and are now found primarily on publicly managed lands at high elevations including streams, lakes, ponds, and meadow habitats located within national forests and national parks. Studies show that populations of Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog have declined by almost 70 percent while the northern DPS of mountain yellow-legged frog declined by over 80 percent. The Yosemite toad faces similar challenges with range-wide declines estimated at almost 50 percent. The amphibians are spread throughout 17 California counties: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Inyo, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Nevada Placer, Plumas, Sierra, Tulare, and Tuolumne.

Habitat degradation, disease, predation and the effects of climate change are contributing factors to the documented decline of these species and continue to pose a threat to their recovery.

"This final rule is the result of exhaustive research, public comment, and scientific peer review," said Jennifer Norris, Field Supervisor for the Service's Sacramento Field Office. "While other moderate and minor level threats including historic logging, mining, grazing pressures and recreational use were evaluated, they were not considered significant factors in our determination."

Being added to the federal list of threatened and endangered species gives protection to these animals from human-caused impacts that could jeopardize their continued existence while at the same time providing a means by which they can be eventually recovered and removed from the list.

On April 25, 2013, the Service published to the Federal Register a proposal to list the amphibians. At the same time, the Service proposed to designate 1,831,820 acres of critical habitat. A draft economic analysis for that critical habitat proposal was made available to the public on January 9, 2014. In that timeframe, the Service requested public comment and scientific information during several comment periods. The Service also held two public meetings, two field hearings, and participated in three Congressional public forums sponsored by Congressmen McClintock and LaMalfa.

A final decision on the critical habitat proposal is expected to be made early next year.

The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the northern DPS of the mountain yellow-legged frog are similar in appearance and behavior. They range from 1.5 to 3.25 inches in length and are a mix of brown and yellow, but can also be grey, red, or green-brown. They may have irregular lichen- or moss-like patchiness. Their belly and undersurfaces of the hind limbs are yellow or orange. They produce a distinctive mink or garlic-like order when disturbed.

The Yosemite toad is moderately sized, usually 1.2–2.8 inches in length, with rounded to slightly oval glands, one on each side of the head, which produce toxins to deter some predators. The iris of the eye is dark brown with gold reflective cells.

America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. We’re working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover all three amphibian species.


Jan. 30 Public Hearing for 3 Sierra Amphibians Proposals to be Held in Sacramento

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comments

January 29, 2014

Media Contacts:
Media Contact:  Robert Moler, (916) 414-6606; robert_moler@fws.gov

Sacramento - Thursday, January 30, 2014, the Service will hold two public hearings in Sacramento on the draft economic analysis and the proposed rules to list and designate critical habitat for the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, the northern distinct population segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog, and the Yosemite toad.

The public hearings will be held at the Sacramento Horsemen’s Association; 3200 Longview Drive; Sacramento, CA 95821. The first hearing session will start at 1:00 p.m. with doors opening at 12:30. A second hearing session will start at 6:00 p.m. with doors opening at 5:30. The schedule for both hearings will be the same. The Service will provide opening statements for 20 minutes that will be followed by a 90-minute opportunity for the public to provide verbal comments (1 – 3 minutes for each speaker). The Service will end each hearing session with a few minutes of closing statements.

On April 25, 2013, the Service published in the Federal Register two proposed rules to add the 3 Sierra amphibians to the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Species and designate 1,831,820 acres of critical habitat in California. On January 10, 2014, the Service released the draft economic analysis that estimated the costs associated with the designation of critical habitat to be $630,000 to $1.5 million over 17 years (2014 to 2030). At that time, the Service announced the public hearings and opened the third public comment period on these proposals that will end March 11, 2014

Written and verbal testimony will be accepted at the public hearings. Written comments can also be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov or by U.S. mail:
Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS–R8–ES–2012–0100 or FWS–R8–ES–2012–0074
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203

After the comment period closes, the Service will review public comments received during all three open comment periods and consider peer reviews of the proposals from independent experts before making a final decision. A final decision regarding the proposed listing rule may be out as early as April 2014.

People needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and participate in either of the public hearings should contact Robert Moler, External Affairs Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, as soon as possible by calling 916-414-6606.


Draft Economic Analysis Available on Proposed Critical Habitat for Three Sierra Amphibians

Comments Accepted through March 11, 2014

January 9, 2014

Media Contacts:
Media Contact:  Robert Moler, (916) 414-6606; robert_moler@fws.gov

Sacramento - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released a draft economic analysis of its proposal to designate 1,831,820 acres of critical habitat in California for the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, the northern distinct population segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog, and the Yosemite toad.

The draft economic analysis estimates the costs associated with the designation of critical habitat to be $630,000 to $1.5 million over 17 years (2014 to 2030). With 97% of the proposed critical habitat designated on federal lands, the estimated costs of the designations are largely associated with federal agency consultations for actions on federal lands such as fish stocking, water operations, grazing, and recreation.

On April 25, 2013, the Service published in the Federal Register two proposals to list and designate critical habitat for the three amphibians and opened a 60 day comment period. During and after the initial comment period, the Service received several requests from the public to extend the comment period. On July 18, 2013, the Service reopened the public comment period for 120 days that closed on November 18, 2013.

The release of the draft economic analysis opens a new 60 day comment period that will close March 11, 2014. The public is invited to submit information on the draft economic analysis as well as the proposals to list and designate critical habitat.

"Comments from the public help the Service make a final decision that reflects the best information available," said Jennifer Norris, Field Supervisor for the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. "We especially want to invite businesses and economic stakeholders that operate in and around proposed critical habitat areas to carefully review and submit comments on the draft economic analysis."

Comments may be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. The Docket Number for the proposed listing rule is FWS–R8–ES–2012–0100 and for the proposed critical habitat rule and draft economic analysis is FWS–R8–ES–2012–0074. Comments can also be sent by U.S. mail to:
Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS–R8–ES–2012–0100 or FWS–R8–ES–2012–0074
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203

The Service will hold a public hearing on the proposed rules and draft economic analysis on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at the Sacramento Horsemen's Association; 3200 Longview Drive; Sacramento, CA 95821. The first hearing session will start at 1:00 p.m. with doors opening at 12:30. A second hearing session will start at 6:00 p.m. with doors opening at 5:30. Written and verbal testimony will be accepted at the public hearing.

People needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and participate in either of these public meetings or the public hearing should contact Robert Moler, External Affairs Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, as soon as possible by calling 916/414-6606.


Service Updates Public Engagement Strategy for Sierra Amphibian Proposals

December 27, 2013

Media Contacts:
Media Contact:  Robert Moler, (916) 414-6606; robert_moler@fws.gov

Sacramento, CalifThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has scheduled two public meetings in January 2014 on the proposals to list and designate critical habitat for the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, the northern distinct population segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog, and the Yosemite toad.

The first public meeting is planned to be held in Mono County on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Mono County Board of Supervisors Chambers at the Mono County Courthouse (upstairs); State Highway 395 North; Bridgeport, CA 93517. This meeting is planned to be broadcasted to the Mono County Board of Supervisors Meeting Room on the 3rd Floor of the Sierra Center Mall; 452 Old Mammoth Road; Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546. After the meeting, there will be informal breakout sessions held in Bridgeport.

The second public meeting is planned to be held in Fresno County on Monday, January 13, 2014 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Fresno County Board of Supervisors Chambers; Hall of Records, Room 301; 2281 Tulare Street; Fresno, CA 93721. Service personnel will be available after the meeting for further discussion.

The Service will present information and address questions and concerns at the public meetings about the proposals and, if it is available, the draft economic analysis for the proposed critical habitat rule. The draft economic analysis is expected to be available to the public next month. A public hearing on the proposals will also be held in Sacramento in January 2014. The date, time and venue for the public hearing will be announced when the draft economic analysis is available to the public.

On April 25, 2013, the Service proposed to list the two frogs as Endangered Species and the toad as a Threatened Species. At the same time, the Service proposed to designate 1,831,820 acres critical habitat for the three amphibians in California; 97% of the proposed designation is located on federal lands.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/cno. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.