LaMalfa to weigh in on frog controversy (video) |

LaMalfa to weigh in on frog controversy (video)

Know & Go

What: Congressional Forum on the Proposed Critical Habitat Designation

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 4

Where: Eric Rood Administrative Center 950 Maidu Avenue, Nevada City

The potential designation of a large swathe of the Sierra Nevada — including a significant portion of Nevada County — as critical habitat for the mountain yellow-legged frog will cause U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa to repair to Nevada County to state his views and garner constituent feedback on the increasingly divisive and high-profile issue.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is considering drastic limits on land use in over 2.2 million acres (of the Sierra Nevada),” said LaMalfa.

“Over 20 percent of Nevada County alone would face new environmental regulation under this plan, and residents deserve a say in the matter.”

LaMalfa will host a two-hour public forum beginning at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at the Nevada County board of supervisors Chambers at 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City.

The Sierra Nevada mountain yellow-legged frog is currently listed as threatened under California’s Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed federal protection for the frog and two other amphibian species on April 24, and the public comment period on the matter is expected to persist for another three months.

The potential listing of the animal has caused private property rights advocates to fret about the impact the listing could have on a wide range of human activities.

Kirk MacKenzie, founder of Defend Rural America, said a federal listing would encumber dam building, irrigation, grazing, timber harvesting, fire management, mining, road construction and a variety of recreation activities in designated areas.

LaMalfa expressed skepticism that limiting human activities in the proposed habitat area would increase frog populations, as the species’ difficulties are unrelated to development or other public use of the Sierras.

“I’m very concerned that this critical habitat designation will negatively impact timber and fire reduction work, agriculture, property rights and access to public lands, all without having any impact on frog populations,” LaMalfa said.

“This is a worldwide phenomenon, yet this proposal would penalize Californians for something they have no responsibility for.”

LaMalfa cited reports by the University of California, San Francisco State University, the National Science Foundation and others that all concluded that the chytrid fungus, which has had negative impacts on amphibians around the world, is to blame for the Sierra frog decline.

The fungus is a lethal skin disease that affects about 287 species of amphibians, as it essentially desiccates the creatures’ epidermis.

Officials with the Tahoe National Service cited another factor in the population decline of the amphibian that was once ubiquitous in the Northern Sierra.

TNF biologist Tina Mark said the practice of stocking mountain lakes with non-native trout has adversely impacted the propagation and survival rate of amphibians in the region.

Mark expressed skepticism that the impact on human activities would be as widespread as some are predicting if the listing occurs, particularly because habitat is widely recognized not to be a critical factor in the species’ decline.

The designation of the spotted owl as an endangered species significantly hindered the timber industry on the West Coast.

The single biggest factor in the spotted owl’s decline has traditionally been identified as habitat loss, which meant loggers, cattle grazers and developers encountered increased regulation and impediments preventing large scale tree cutting.

Emergent research has de-emphasized the importance of the habitat loss in the decline of the owl species, however, and has instead identified non-native predation by the barred owl as the overriding factor.

The Tahoe National Forest has several areas designated as habitat for the frog species, including lakes in proximity to the Sierra Buttes, the Granite Chief Wilderness, Loch Leven Lakes and areas near Donner and Independence lakes.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or 530-477-4239.

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