Endangered Species Protection Recommended for Cascades Frog

22 August 2017 | Center for Biological Diversity News Release

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Fish and Game Commission today received the state wildlife agency’s recommendation that the declining Cascades frog be designated as a candidate for protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act.

Cascades frogs have been lost from most of the mountain lakes and streams of Northern California where they once lived, primarily due to disease and introduction of nonnative fish.

“We can still save Cascades frogs, but they need the critical protections of the California Endangered Species Act,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center. “State protections would spur habitat restoration measures, invasive species controls and reintroduction of frogs to their former habitats.”

The California Fish and Game Commission received the department’s evaluation today and will vote on candidate status for the imperiled frog at its October meeting. A candidate species receives all the protections of a listed species for a year while the commission decides whether to provide permanent endangered species protections.

Cascades frogs once inhabited numerous lakes, ponds, wetlands and streams in Northern California, from the Shasta-Trinity region to the Modoc Plateau and south through the Lassen National Forest to the upper Feather River. Remaining frog populations are in the Klamath-Trinity region, the southern Cascades near Mount Shasta and the Lassen area.

The introduction of nonnative trout into formerly fishless lakes is a major threat to Cascades frogs since the fish prey upon and compete with the frogs. Cascades frogs are also susceptible to a particularly virulent fungal pathogen that causes the disease chytridiomycosis in amphibians. Other threats include pesticides, climate change, fire suppression, livestock grazing, and habitat loss from vegetation management and timber harvest.

A recent study warned that amphibians are suffering an unprecedented extinction crisis, with 200 frog species around the world wiped out since the 1970s and hundreds more at risk. Four frog species in California are already federally listed as threatened or endangered, with two more frogs under consideration for federal protection.

“Our world would be a much less interesting place without frogs,” Miller said. “California should do everything it can to keep Cascades frogs around.”

Background
Cascades frogs (Rana cascadae) are medium-sized frogs that inhabit lakes, ponds, wet meadows and streams at moderate to high elevations, between 750 and 8,200 feet, in Northern California’s mountains. These hardy frogs hibernate during the winter in mud at the bottom of deep ponds and springs that do not freeze solid. They emerge to breed shortly after spring snowmelt in shallow, still-water habitats such as lake alcoves, ponds, potholes, flooded meadows and sometimes slow-moving streams.

Cascades frog numbers and populations have been declining precipitously in California since about 1970. They have disappeared from more than 95 percent of their former localities in the Lassen area, where they remain in low numbers at only a dozen sites, with each of those populations slowly declining. The frogs appear to have completely disappeared from Lassen Volcanic National Park. Scientists predict some of the Lassen-area frog populations could be extirpated within 10 years without active management to improve their habitat.

Although Cascades frogs are still widespread and relatively abundant in the Klamath Mountains, some frog populations have recently disappeared from this area and frog abundance at some previously robust Klamath populations has clearly declined. At most sites recently surveyed in the Klamath Mountains, Cascades frog populations are small. Cascades frog populations in the Castle Crags Wilderness and the Klamath National Forest are thought to be particularly at risk.

The Center also petitioned in 2012 to protect the Cascades frog under the federal Endangered Species Act, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not make a decision on whether the species warrants federal protection until 2022 at the earliest.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Contact: Jeff Miller, (707) 604-7739, jmiller@biologicaldiversity.org

Link to original article: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2017/cascades-frog-08-16-2017.php


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