The following is a press release issued by the Center for Biological Diversity:
The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to finalize Endangered Species Act protections for foothill yellow-legged frogs in California.
Four distinct populations of the foothill yellow-legged frog (Feather River, Southern Sierra, Central California Coast and Southern California Coast) were proposed for protection in December 2021, triggering a one-year deadline for finalizing protections, which has yet to occur.
“It’s frustrating that the Service has stalled protections for imperiled populations of foothill yellow-legged frogs along the California coast and in the Sierra foothills for more than a decade,” said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the Center. “The agency should be proactively protecting and recovering vulnerable wildlife. The Endangered Species Act is incredibly powerful at preventing extinction, but it can’t work if species aren’t protected first.”
The Biden administration has consistently missed the Act’s deadlines, which were established to ensure that imperiled plants and animals receive timely protections. Despite a backlog of nearly 400 species, overall, this administration has protected just 11 species per year compared to 65 species a year under the Clinton administration and 36 species each year under the Obama administration.
Foothill yellow-legged frogs were once found in many streams and rivers along the lower western slopes of the Sierra Nevada as well as in Pacific Coast drainages from the Oregon border to Los Angeles County. The species has now disappeared from more than half of its former California range.
These frogs are threatened by numerous human activities that damage their aquatic habitat, including dams and water diversions that alter stream hydrology, logging, mining, livestock grazing and urban development. They are also harmed by invasive species, disease, pesticides, and climate change, which is causing high-severity wildfires and flooding.
“Because these diminutive, lemon-legged amphibians require natural streamflow conditions, their depleted status is a warning about the health of aquatic ecosystems,” said Miller. “Saving these frogs will also help protect the rivers and creeks we all rely on for clean drinking water and recreation.”
In addition to the foothill yellow-legged frog, today’s lawsuit includes 12 other species unduly waiting for protection: the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, Mt. Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan, tall western penstemon, Peñasco least chipmunk, Humboldt marten, six Texas mussels (Texas fatmucket, Guadalupe fatmucket, Texas fawnsfoot, Texas pimpleback, Guadalupe orb and false spike) and the pyramid pigtoe mussel.
Photos of the foothill yellow-legged frog are available for media use.
Adult foothill yellow-legged frogs (Rana boylii) range in size from 1.5 to 3 inches long, with a distinctive lemon-yellow color under their legs. They live in partially shaded rocky streams that flow year-round, and their life cycle is synchronized with the seasonal timing of streamflow conditions. These frogs need perennial water where they can forage through the summer and fall months.
The Center petitioned in 2012 to protect the foothill yellow-legged frog under the federal Endangered Species Act and in 2016 for protection under the California Endangered Species Act. The California Fish and Game Commission implemented state protections in 2019, listing the Southern Sierra, Central Coast and South Coast populations as endangered, and the Northern Sierra and Feather River populations as threatened. Both federal and state wildlife authorities have determined that foothill yellow-legged frogs in California’s North Coast and Oregon do not currently warrant protection.