Questions on critical habitat

mountain_yellow_legged_frog.jpgQuestions still remain in the minds of some about U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ plan for critical habitat designations to protect some frogs and toads in the High Sierra. Will the plan eliminate trout-planting in high country lakes like South Lake and Rock Creek Lake? How would the loss of the amphibians impact other creatures?

I asked Wildlife Public Information Officer Robert Moler. He said he could not tell us at this point about trout-planting. Moler said, “Each activity is thoroughly evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time the federal agency involved consults with the Fish and Wildlife Service.” So, in short, the Forest Service would make decisions about activities like trout plants under critical habitat designation but also consult with Fish and Wildlife.

Cheryl Chipman, acting public information officer for the Inyo Forest, said discussions on the critical habitat proposal have not started yet. She said the two agencies do work together. Mr. Moler confirmed that and said that the Wildlife Service “is already working closely with the U.S. Forest Service regarding the conservation of these frogs.” He also said that the Forest Service is “ultimately responsible for land management decisions within their jurisdiction.”

While Inyo and Mono people worry about impacts on fishing and tourism, the Fish and Wildlife Service has serious concerns about the web of life in our mountain areas. Mr. Moler said biologists he works with referred him to a natural history website which says that the mountain yellow-legged frog plays a unique role in aquatic ecosystems. The site also says that the frogs occupy different levels in the food web instead of just one like most creatures.

The frogs start life as tadpoles that feed on algae. As a grown frog, they become predators, feeding on insects. Plus the frogs themselves are important pray for snakes, birds, coyotes and bears. So, all those species would be affected with the loss of the frogs.

The biologists say that since the frogs occupy several levels of the food chain, “It is clear that the loss of mountain yellow-legged frogs as predator, prey, and herbivore could cause profound changes to aquatic ecosystems.” Public comment on habitat plans is open through November 18th. Go to

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7 Responses to Questions on critical habitat

  1. Russ Reese September 15, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    Bennet always writes a good article, and RandyK made a reasoned response. I apologize for making the predator comment. Actually there are many things more important in my life than the fate of the frog or the state of the fishery in the wilderness. So, I’ll pay attention to the important issues in my life and let you guys thrash out the frog issues; working on the belief that neither I or Bennet or Randy will make a whit of difference in the outcome.

    • RandyK September 16, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      But if enough people make half a whit of difference, that would be a difference. Enough half-whits could even change a policy.

  2. Russ Reese September 15, 2013 at 7:34 am #

    The Fish And Wildlife States That Snakes,Birds, Coyotes, And Bears Depend On Frogs For Food. Therefore, To Be Consistent In Their Pursuit Of A Safe Habitat For Frogs, All These Predators Must Be Eliminated. Just A Reminder, Fellow Hikers, Once A “Critical Habitat” Is A Fact, That Designation Can Never Be Changed.

    • Benett Kessler September 15, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      Please don’t use capital letters on every word. As for your assertion that F&W wants to destroy all predators, that is inaccurate. They are talking about trying to sustain
      the food chain entirely. Go back and read the story.
      Benett Kessler

      • Tourbillon September 15, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

        Thank You For Correcting Russ, Benett. I Went Back And Read The Story And It Was A Very Good Story.

    • Mark September 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

      Russ Reese – The snakes, birds, coyotes and bears might eat the frogs but they don’t eat the tadpoles that are wintering in the deeper lakes where the invasive trout also spend the winter.

      It’s not about the frogs, it’s about the tadpoles. Your agruement that those predators must be eliminated is weak. The only predator that needs to be removed is the trout that was never there in the first place.

      I suggest you catch em’ ponds for those that want to fish.

  3. RandyK September 14, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    It is important to send comment letters if people care about fishing in the high country. The endangered species act requires the federal agencies to consider the effect of critical habitat designations on the economy and area before making the designation. This makes public input important and opens the door to a reasonable rule that does not remove so much land from fishing (not to mention other use limitations that might be necessary).

    These agencies like to say they will not make a decision about fish until after the land is designated as critical habitat. That way, they do not have to address the consequences of their actions before hand. Read the proposed rules. There is no doubt that fish and frogs don’t mix, and that habitat that is critical (essential) for the frog must be fish free. Their own rules say so in just those words, repeatedly. The only thing the agencies will be discussing after the designation is how to get the fish out of the waters.

    If you like fishing, thinking about fishing, knowing other people can choose to fish, hiking, or just the ability for the public to use the following areas, be concerned: Little lake Valley and Rock Creek lake; Paiute Pass above North Lake; South lake and all the lakes and streams above it; Coyote Flat and all the lakes there; all the lakes and streams above Glacier lodge in Big Pine Canyon; all the lakes and streams above Onion valley; and virtually all lakes on the west side of the Sierra crest. In other words, a huge portion of the most used and popular trails and high country fishing areas in Inyo County – detailed maps are on the Inyo County planning website that show them all.

    It is wrong for F&W to make this decision while at the same time denying its effects. There will be no other time to debate whether fishing survives and the impacts on our area from this action.


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