Union Democrat staff

Frog protection debate continues

To the Editor:

I'm writing in response to the Sept. 5 letter written by Gail Jamieson, who strongly opposed the proposed listing of the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the Yosemite Toad as endangered and threatened.

Ms. Jamieson mistakenly claimed that the proposed critical habitat for the toad and frog within the Emigrant Wilderness and other places would somehow result in the "closure of these areas" for recreational access. That claim is just not accurate.

As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife representative stated clearly at the "hearing" at the Sonora Fairgrounds held last month, designating critical habitat for the amphibians would not in any way close off public access. That point is also made very clear in the written proposal put forward by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Taking the step of "designating" critical habitat (mostly in remote wilderness areas) would simply require the U.S. Forest Service and other land agencies to consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists to look for ways to reduce damage to the critical habitat when proposing new projects. Few, if any, new projects will ever be proposed in wilderness areas or in the extremely high, remote other habitat areas adjacent to wilderness.

In reality there are no proposed Fish and Wildlife Service restrictions that would restrict people from recreating in wilderness areas and other public lands within or around critical habitat if the Yosemite toad and Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog are eventually listed as Threatened and Endangered.

Julia Stephens

Twain Harte

Toad decline can be reversed

To the Editor:

Mountain yellow-legged frogs were once so abundant in the Sierra Nevada that backcountry visitors complained that they couldn't sleep at night due to the volume of frogs singing. Now these same places are silent.

Many fallacies are being perpetuated by opponents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to list the mountain yellow-legged Frog and Yosemite toad under the Endangered Species Act. One of these fallacies is that portions of the Emigrant and Yosemite Wilderness would be closed to recreational use. This is simply not the case.

Critical habitat designation does two main things. One is to identify an area that is critical to the continued survival of the species. As the high country of the central Sierra Nevada is the native range of these amphibians, it makes sense that this is the area to be designated as critical habitat.

The second main thing that critical habitat designation does is require that other government agencies consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on actions they carry out, fund, or authorize to ensure that their actions will not destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not proposing to close the Emigrant or Yosemite wilderness to recreation.

Another fallacy perpetuated by opponents of frog and toad protection is that there is nothing we can do to help these creatures. As pointed out by many on both sides of the issue, non-native game fish are a major human-caused threat. Pesticide drift and overgrazing (not simply grazing, but overgrazing) are two more. These three human causes of frog and toad decline can be reversed through informed and ethical management decisions.

Thomas Hofstra