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California Endangered Species Protection recommended for Cascades frog

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Fish and Game Commission Wednesday received the state wildlife agency's recommendation that the declining Cascades frog be designated as a candidate for protection under the state's Endangered Species Act.

Officials said Cascades frogs have been lost from most of the mountain lakes and streams of Northern California where they once lived, primarily due to disease and introduction of nonnative fish.

"We can still save Cascades frogs, but they need the critical protections of the California Endangered Species Act," said Jeff Miller, Conservation Advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. "State protections would spur habitat restoration measures, invasive species controls and reintroduction of frogs to their former habitats."

The California Fish and Game Commission received the department's evaluation Wednesday and will vote on candidate status for the imperiled frog at its October meeting. A candidate species receives all the protections of a listed species for a year while the commission decides whether to provide permanent endangered species protections.

Cascades frogs once inhabited numerous lakes, ponds, wetlands and streams in Northern California, from the Shasta-Trinity region to the Modoc Plateau and south through the Lassen National Forest to the upper Feather River. Remaining frog populations are in the Klamath-Trinity region, the southern Cascades near Mount Shasta and the Lassen area.

Officials said the introduction of nonnative trout into formerly fishless lakes is a major threat to Cascades frogs since the fish prey upon and compete with the frogs. Cascades frogs are also susceptible to a particularly virulent fungal pathogen that causes the disease chytridiomycosis in amphibians.

Other threats include pesticides, climate change, fire suppression, livestock grazing, and habitat loss from vegetation management and timber harvest.

A recent study warned that amphibians are suffering an unprecedented extinction crisis, with 200 frog species around the world wiped out since the 1970's and hundreds more at risk. Four frog species in California are already federally listed as threatened or endangered, with two more frogs under consideration for federal protection.

"Our world would be a much less interesting place without frogs," said Miller. "California should do everything it can to keep Cascades frogs around."

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