On Wednesday, Oct. 15, the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced an agreement to litigation CBD had filed for protection of Southern California’s mountain yellow-legged frogs.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to prepare a recovery plan for the endangered frogs by December 2018.
Recovery plans are a key tool for identifying actions necessary to save endangered species and eventually remove their Endangered Species Act protection. Species with dedicated recovery plans are significantly more likely to improve than species without plans.
CBD has filed numerous lawsuits to protect the local amphibian; the most recent was in February seeking the preparation of a recovery plan. The mountain yellow-legged frog was listed as endangered in July 2002.
FWS also will pay $14,250 in attorney fees to CBD.
Although the frogs have been protected under the ESA for more than a decade, the federal agency has not completed the required recovery plan.
“I’m so glad these severely endangered frogs will finally get a recovery plan,” Collette Adkins Giese, a CBD attorney and biologist, said in a press release. “Recovery plans really need to be developed soon after species are protected, because they give us a roadmap of exactly what we need to do to ensure those species won’t go extinct.”
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 in these mountains.
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.”