The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the public comment period for 120 days for the proposal to list the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the northern distinct population segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog as endangered and the Yosemite toad as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The service is also reopening the public comment period for 120 days for the proposal to designate critical habitat for these three amphibian species in California.
On April 25, the USFWS published the two proposals and opened a 60-day public comment period that ended on June 24. During and after the initial comment period, there was significant interest in extending the comment period.
“The public comment period is designed so that the Service can listen to and take into consideration citizens’ concerns and any information the public may submit regarding these species and their habitat,” said Jan Knight, acting field supervisor for the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. “This process is important so that any final decision made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reflects all of the best science and information available. We are reopening the public comment period to ensure the public has adequate opportunity to submit comments.”
The USFWS will accept comments through Nov. 18 on the two proposed rules. 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. For the proposed critical habitat rule, the docket number 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 USFWS seeks information regarding any threats to the species and regulations that may address those threats. A detailed outline of the information can be found on the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office’s website at: http://www.fws.gov/sacramento/outreach/2013/07-18/docs/QA-Sierra%20Amphibians%20reopen%20PC%20pLpCH-2013jul17%20FINAL.pdf. Comments submitted during the initial public comment period need not be resubmitted.
The USFWS has also received requests to hold public meetings on these proposals. The USFWS is planning to hold two public meetings and one public hearing, likely in fall 2013. The dates and times of these meetings and hearing will be announced when the draft economic analysis for the proposed critical habitat rule is made available to the public and will be scheduled within the subsequent open public comment period.
The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the northern distinct population segment 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 be grey, red, or green-brown. They may have irregular lichen- or moss-like patchiness. Their bellies and undersurfaces of the hind limbs are yellow or orange. They produce a distinctive mink or garlic-like order when disturbed.
The two species can be distinguished from each other physically by the ratio of the lower-leg length to snout-vent length.
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.
Frogs and toads play an important role in our ecosystem. They feed on insects and are themselves food for other important species, such as garter snakes, birds and even bears. Amphibians, such as these species, play an important role in nutrient recycling.
Because amphibian tadpoles live in lakes and streams but become terrestrial as adults, they are important in transferring energy from the aquatic environment to the terrestrial environment where it is available to terrestrial species such as land birds and mammals.
Both frogs are threatened by disease and by habitat modification associated with the past introduction of non-native trout to fishless waters. Other major threats to the frogs include predation and climate change. The Yosemite toad is threatened by changes in wet meadow habitat associated with past fire management, historic timber management activities, livestock grazing, disease and climate change.
Recreation use is not considered a significant threat to any of these species.
For more information visit www.fws.gov/sacramento.