The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the U.S Department of the Interior Wednesday, Feb. 12, for failing to develop a recovery plan for Southern California’s mountain yellow-legged frogs. Although the frogs have been protected under the Endangered Species Act for more than a decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to complete the legally required recovery plan.
In the papers filed with the court, CBD stated that FWS is legally responsible to prepare and implement a recovery plan and has a policy to complete the plans within two-and-half years of listing a species as endangered or threatened.
The failure to complete the plan is unlawful, CBD charged. It wants the U.S. District Court of Central California to order FWS to comply with the ESA and compete the recovery plan.
According to CBD, the ultimate goal of the ESA is not only to temporarily save endangered and threatened species from extinction, but also to recover these species to the point where they no longer need ESA protection. The recovery plan is a blueprint for actions that would promote recovery and identify goals for the frog’s conservation. This is a critical component of the species’ survival because scientific studies show that species with recovery plans are much more likely to recover than species without.
Despite the absence of a plan, efforts to re-establish the mountain yellow-legged frog have been ongoing on the Hill for several years. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center in Santa Ana and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research have been breeding captive frogs and releasing eggs and, last spring, tadpoles in several local streambeds, primarily on the University of California’s James Reserve.
However, threats to the species’ recovery sometimes are beyond the scope of a plan. The Mountain Fire in July burned through several frog habitats and run-off and debris impinged the habitat, according to the Forest Service’s Burned-area Report.
The report concluded that the probability of damage or loss to the frog’s habitat in the Tahquitz watershed was very likely. However, the authors speculated that the increased sediment in the stream channels would not create irreversible damage. In summary, it said, the fire’s results will be “significantly negatively impacting the MYLF population in the Tahquitz watershed.”
“The remaining seven [of nine in Southern California] populations remains at an extreme risk of fire and could be exposed to impacts from fire management activities in the future. This is the most significant risk to the habitat of the Southern California [distinct population segment] of mountain yellow-legged frog,” CBD’s filing to the court stated.