Skip to main content

USFWS proposal sparks concern

June 21, 2013

With the USFWS proposing “critical habitat” designations throughout the Eastern Sierra that will limit access and recreation to save the vulnerable yellow-legged frog and Yosemite toad (above), residents are being encouraged to comment on the plan by visiting the USFWS website. Photo courtesy USFS-Pacific Southwest Research Station

Eastern Sierra residents and visitors are being urged to help fight a proposal that aims to save three amphibian species, but could devastate the local tourist-dependent economy and restrict access to popular recreation destinations in the process.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are proposing a series of “critical habitat designations” in the Eastern Sierra to protect the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, Yosemite toad and northern population segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog. The critical habitat designations would limit or altogether restrict some uses on public lands, including grazing and fishing.
Inyo County areas proposed for the critical habitat designation include Rock Creek Lake, waters near Mt. Tom, the Bishop Creek Drainage including South Lake, Coyote Flat, Big Pine Creek Drainage and Onion Valley.
The USFWS is accepting initial feedback on its proposal through 9 p.m. Monday, June 24. Local business owners, residents and officials fearing negative impacts from the critical habitat designations are strongly urging anyone and everyone with a vested interest – financial or recreational – to weigh in by the deadline.
“The critical habitat designations have the potential to devastate the county’s economy and restrict access to important recreation areas,” states a press release from Lake Sabrina Boat Landing. “The listing of the species will add additional permitting burdens, and may further restrict access to public lands.”
The Bishop Chamber of Commerce sent out a mass email Thursday night urging residents and visitors to get involved. “Outdoor recreation such as fishing, camping, hiking and trail riding could certainly be affected by any such designation,” the email states. “Many businesses and the overall economy of the Eastern Sierra might be impacted.
“We understand that the issues of species protection and critical habitat are complex, and the Bishop Area Chamber has not officially taken any position on the matter,” the email continues. “We would however like to encourage all members, friends and concerned people to weigh in on the matter. We truly believe that the only way to create the best public policy is to participate in the discussion.”
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors has already heard reports that USFWS officials have “removed” trout from lakes above Big Pine in an effort to protect the vulnerable amphibians.
According to the National Park Service, the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs were once the most abundant amphibian in Yosemite’s high country. Today, the NPS reports, the frog is among the world’s most critically endangered amphibians, having lost at least 93 percent of their populations. Yosemite toads were also once an abundant species; at least 50 percent of their population has been lost.
“The remaining populations of both species are much smaller and more fragmented across the landscape,” the National Park Service states at http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/aquatic.htm. “Both species are federal candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act.”
According to the USFWS, primary threats to the various species identified include habitat destruction, recreation (including trout stocking), dams and reservoir diversion, livestock use (grazing), packstock use, roads, timber harvest, fire management activities, disease, climate change and pollution.
The total area proposed for critical habitat designations is 1,831,820 acres. All proposed areas are between 5,500 and 12,000 feet in elevation.
Inyo County Planning Director Josh Hart said the Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to designate the critical habitat areas, but it does not yet have a plan about how to promote population growth in the three species.
Hart said initial comments on the critical habitat designations are due Monday, June 24, “but this is a year-long process, at least. We will have additional opportunities for input.”
County Counsel Randy Keller pointed out that critical habitat is a federal designation and “once critical habitat is set, it’s set in stone.”
Hart said he is working on comments about the socioeconomic impacts of the proposed designations, and will draft comments by the June 24 deadline.
Longtime Inyo County rancher Ron Yribarren, who has a grazing allotment in the Coyote Flats area being proposed as critical habitat, said that the USFWS does not have enough information to justify a prohibition on grazing or trout stocking in the proposed critical habitat areas.
“Critical habitat probably shouldn’t be happening,” Yribarren said. “The only reason I got stopped from grazing in Coyote is because I was the only thing they could control up there.”
First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius added that grazing keeps grasses in the frog’s habitat manageable. “Because the area is grazed, the species thrives,” she said.
The Board of Supervisors is planning a series of public meetings to discuss the proposed critical habitat and how it will impact residents. Those meeting dates will be announced later.
To submit comments, residents can go to www.inyoplanning.org/projects/USFW_YellowLeggedFrog.htm. Under the “Additional Comments” link is a “Submittal of Comments” button that will lead to the Fish and Wildlife Service comment page.
Residents can go directly to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FWS-R8-ES-2012-0074 to comment on the critical habitat designation and visit http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FWS-R8-ES-2012-0100 to comment on the proposed endangered or threatened species designation.
Comments must be made by 9 p.m. Monday, June 24.
Following are legislators who represent Inyo County at the state and federal levels:
Governor: Edmund G. “Jerry”
Brown, Jr.
Mail: Gov. Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Website: www.gov.ca.gov

Senator, 18th Senate District:
Jean Fuller
Capitol Office:
State Capitol, Room 3063
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4018
Fax: (916) 322-3304
District Office:
5701 Truxtun Ave., Suite 150
Bakersfield, CA 93309
Phone: (661) 323-0443
Fax: (661) 323-0446
Website: http://cssrc.us/web/18/

Assemblyman, 26th Assembly
District: Connie Conway
Capitol Office:
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 319-2026
Fax: (916) 319-2126
District Office:
113 N. Church St., Suite 505
Visalia, CA 93291
Phone: (559) 636-3440
Fax: (559) 636-4484
Website: http://arc.asm.ca.gov/
member/34/

Senator: Barbara Boxer
D.C. Office:
112 Hart Senate Office
Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-3553
Website: http://boxer.senate.gov/
Fresno Office:
2500 Tulare St., Suite 5290
Fresno, CA 93721
Phone: (559) 497-5109
Fax: (202) 228-3864
Sacramento Office:
501 I Street, Suite 7-600
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 448-2787
Fax: (202) 228-3865

Senator: Dianne Feinstein
D.C. Office:
331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3841
Fax: (202) 228-3954
TTY/TDD: (202) 224-2501
Website: http://feinstein.senate.
gov
Fresno Office:
2500 Tulare St., Suite 4290
Fresno, CA 93721
Phone: (559) 485-7430
Fax: (559) 485-9689
San Francisco Office:
One Post Street, Suite 2450
San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone: (415) 393-0707
Fax: (415) 393-0710

8th Congressional District
Representative: Paul Cook
D.C. Office:
1222 Longworth House Office
Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5861
Website: http://cook.house.gov
Apple Valley District Office
14955 Dale Evans Parkway
Apple Valley Town Hall
Apple Valley, CA 92307
“We understand that the issues of species protection and critical habitat are complex, and the Bishop Area Chamber has not officially taken any position on the matter,” the email continues. “We would however like to encourage all members, friends and concerned people to weigh in on the matter. We truly believe that the only way to create the best public policy is to participate in the discussion.”
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors has already heard reports that USFWS officials have “removed” trout from lakes above Big Pine in an effort to protect the vulnerable amphibians.
According to the National Park Service, the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs were once the most abundant amphibian in Yosemite’s high country. Today, the NPS reports, the frog is among the world’s most critically endangered amphibians, having lost at least 93 percent of their populations. Yosemite toads were also once an abundant species; at least 50 percent of their population has been lost.
“The remaining populations of both species are much smaller and more fragmented across the landscape,” the National Park Service states at http://www.nps.gov/yose/federal candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act.”
According to the USFWS, primary threats to the various species identified include habitat destruction, recreation (including trout stocking), dams and reservoir diversion, livestock use (grazing), packstock use, roads, timber harvest, fire management activities, disease, climate change and pollution.
The total area proposed for critical habitat designations is 1,831,820 acres. All proposed areas are between 5,500 and 12,000 feet in elevation.
Inyo County Planning Director Josh Hart said the Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to designate the critical habitat areas, but it does not yet have a plan about how to promote population growth in the three species.
Hart said initial comments on the critical habitat designations are due Monday, June 24, “but this is a year-long process, at least. We will have additional opportunities for input.”
County Counsel Randy Keller pointed out that critical habitat is a federal designation and “once critical habitat is set, it’s set in stone.”
Hart said he is working on comments about the socioeconomic impacts of the proposed designations, and will draft comments by the June 24 deadline.
Longtime Inyo County rancher Ron Yribarren, who has a grazing allotment in the Coyote Flats area being proposed as critical habitat, said that the USFWS does not have enough information to justify a prohibition on grazing or trout stocking in the proposed critical habitat areas.
“Critical habitat probably shouldn’t be happening,” Yribarren said. “The only reason I got stopped from grazing in Coyote is because I was the only thing they could control up there.”
First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius added that grazing keeps grasses in the frog’s habitat manageable. “Because the area is grazed, the species thrives,” she said.
The Board of Supervisors is planning a series of public meetings to discuss the proposed critical habitat and how it will impact residents. Those meeting dates will be announced later.
To submit comments, residents can go to www.inyoplanning.org/projects/USFW_YellowLeggedFrog.htm. Under the “Additional Comments” link is a “Submittal of Comments” button that will lead to the Fish and Wildlife Service comment page.
Residents can go directly to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FWS-R8-ES-2012-0074 to comment on the critical habitat designation and visit http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FWS-R8-ES-2012-0100 to comment on the proposed endangered or threatened species designation.
Comments must be made by 9 p.m. Monday, June 24.
Following are legislators who represent Inyo County at the state and federal levels:
Governor: Edmund G. “Jerry”
Brown, Jr.
Mail: Gov. Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Website: www.gov.ca.gov

Senator, 18th Senate District:
Jean Fuller
Capitol Office:
State Capitol, Room 3063
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4018
Fax: (916) 322-3304
District Office:
5701 Truxtun Ave., Suite 150
Bakersfield, CA 93309
Phone: (661) 323-0443
Fax: (661) 323-0446
Website: http://cssrc.us/web/18/

Assemblyman, 26th Assembly
District: Connie Conway
Capitol Office:
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 319-2026
Fax: (916) 319-2126
District Office:
113 N. Church St., Suite 505
Visalia, CA 93291
Phone: (559) 636-3440
Fax: (559) 636-4484
Website: http://arc.asm.ca.gov/
member/34/

Senator: Barbara Boxer
D.C. Office:
112 Hart Senate Office
Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-3553
Website: http://boxer.senate.gov/
Fresno Office:
2500 Tulare St., Suite 5290
Fresno, CA 93721
Phone: (559) 497-5109
Fax: (202) 228-3864
Sacramento Office:
501 I Street, Suite 7-600
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 448-2787
Fax: (202) 228-3865

Senator: Dianne Feinstein
D.C. Office:
331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3841
Fax: (202) 228-3954
TTY/TDD: (202) 224-2501
Website: http://feinstein.senate.
gov
Fresno Office:
2500 Tulare St., Suite 4290
Fresno, CA 93721
Phone: (559) 485-7430
Fax: (559) 485-9689
San Francisco Office:
One Post Street, Suite 2450
San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone: (415) 393-0707
Fax: (415) 393-0710

8th Congressional District
Representative: Paul Cook
D.C. Office:
1222 Longworth House Office
Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5861
Website: http://cook.house.gov
Apple Valley District Office
14955 Dale Evans Parkway
Apple Valley Town Hall
Apple Valley, CA 92307

Premium Drupal Themes by Adaptivethemes