Federal wildlife officials are granting Endangered Species Act protections to three species of Sierra Nevada amphibians.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that two types of yellow-legged frog are endangered species, and that the Yosemite toad is threatened.
All three species once thrived in the mountains, but they are now found mostly at high elevations in national parks and public forests in California.
The listing gives the animals legal protections from human-caused impacts. Government studies show the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog has declined by nearly 70 percent, while the separate mountain yellow-legged frog numbers have dropped by more than 80 percent. The Yosemite toad’s population is down about 50 percent. The service blames habitat destruction, climate change and disease for the species’ decline.
The next step will be the federal designation of critical habitat for the species, which consist of how much land the amphibians need to recover. That will include thousands of acres across Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties. As reported earlier, Mother Lode Congressman Tom McClintock has been critical of federal protections citing it could restrict land access and limit or forbid activities in the designated areas. In addition, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors sent two letters to the service objecting to the designation.