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County calls meeting to get answers on frog proposal

September 18, 2013

Residents are invited to attend a public meeting Monday to hear how proposed critical habitat for the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog (above) could impact local communities. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service

Inyo County and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife will be meeting Monday to give Inyo County residents an opportunity to learn more about proposed critical habitat designations in the Eastern Sierra.
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors will hold a special meeting from 6-8 p.m. Monday in the Home Economics Building at the Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fairgrounds in Bishop. Representatives with the USFWS, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service will be in attendance to discuss the proposed critical habitat designations and how they will impact life in the Eastern Sierra if approved.
According to a press release from the Board of Supervisors, “the meeting is intended to provide the public and the Board an opportunity to ask questions” about the proposal to designate nearly 2 million acres of land in the Eastern Sierra, including more than 100,000 acres in Inyo County, as critical habitat for certain species of amphibian.
The USFWS has proposed to list as endangered and designate critical habitat for the Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog, the Northern Distinct Population Segment of the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog and the Yosemite Toad.
More information on the proposed regulations, as well as how to comment, can be found at http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=... or at the County Planning link, www.inyoplanning.org/projects/USFW_YellowLeggedFrog.htm.
Monday’s meeting “will also provide an opportunity to better understand what impacts the proposal will have on the California DFW’s fish stocking programs, and U.S. Forest Service planning, regulations and operations,” the press release states.
Answers provided by agency representatives will provide information to guide the board’s, as well as the public’s, comments on the proposed designation.
In recent months, residents seeking information on the proposed critical habitat designations and how they will impact the Eastern Sierra have gotten vague answers from the Forest Service and state and federal Fish and Wildlife departments.
Essentially, the federal DFW has claimed that the state DFW will be responsible for enforcing the habitat designations if they are approved. The state DFW has claimed that the Forest Service, which owns most of the property being proposed for the designation, will implement rules. In turn, the Forest Service has said that the proposals are coming from the federal DFW, which will have the final say in implementing the designations if they are approved.
County CAO Kevin Carunchio said that having representatives of each of the three agencies on hand Monday may force them to provide real answers and responses to concerns residents may have. “Let’s take all three agencies and get them talking in the same room, at the same time,” Carunchio said. He added that he hopes the representatives will be agency employees who “have their boots on the ground” and can provide real answers to real concerns so residents can make informed comments on the proposals.
“All we can do is try,” Carunchio said. “This meeting will be less formal, so there is an opportunity for dialogue.”
Comments on the proposed habitat designations are due to the USFWS by Nov. 18.
“The Board encourages all members of the public who are interested in the impacts such a designation will have on the Eastern Sierra and Inyo County to come and participate in the discussion,” the press release states.

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