by Charles James

mountain_yellow_legged_frog.jpgKermit the Frog probably hasn’t caused as much excitement and dismay as the mountain yellow-legged frog has in recent months for local politicians and residents of Inyo and Mono Counties, but then Kermit has a better publicist.

With thousands of acres of backcountry lakes being proposed as critical habitat for the Sierra-Nevada yellow-legged frog, Mountain yellow-legged frog, and the Yosemite Toad under the Endangered Species Act, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors recently expressed increasing alarm at the potential “socio-economic” impact the proposed critical habitat will have on local communities dependent on tourism, especially as there are a host of other endangered species found in Inyo County also being proposed; eight to be exact. The supervisors fear the “cumulative effect” of so many endangered species being listed not just in Inyo County, but also in the dozens of proposed endangered species listings in surrounding counties.

According to the California Fish and Wildlife the Mountain yellow-legged frogs in the Sierra Nevada live in high mountain lakes, ponds, tarns, and streams−largely in areas that were glaciated as recently as 10,000 years ago. There were no fish in the lakes until the mid-1800s when miners and settlers began bringing stock fish from other areas of the state to plant in the local waters, especially several varieties of trout.

Supervisor  Linda Arcularius noted that even though the recent report from USFW said there would be no negative recreational impact, she could not understand how that could be as the greatest threat to the yellow-legged frog comes from the amphibian chytrid fungus and not from grazing or even the fish. The fungus, Arcularius noted, is spread by humans crossing into the critical habitat and carrying it over to another critical habitat literally on the bottom of their boots. “So how,” she asked, “can you stop that spread without restricting access which would affect recreation?”

The board discussed a proposed draft letter response to Secretary Jewell of the Interior Department expressing concern of the “cumulative effects” of so many endangered species on the economy of rural counties.

Associate Planner Elaine Kabala explained to the board that the endangered species proposed within Inyo County over the next five years besides the yellow-legged frog include the Armargosa tryonia (fresh water snail), Mojave ground squirrel, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, Navares Spring naucorid bug, Mono County Basin sage grouse, and the Western Yellow-billed cuckoo. Each, Kabala explained, would have its own economic impact study. Added to the that would be the species designated as endangered in the adjacent counties.

After some minor adjustments to the draft letter, it was unanimously approved.

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