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Red legged frog live it up in Placerville

A large coalition of federal, state and county agencies have joined forces to protect one tiny El Dorado County resident – a frog.

The red legged frog, to be exact.

In a meeting of the El Dorado County Irrigation District on Monday, the agencies agreed in concept to cooperate in creating a plan to manage the Spivey Pond property in Placerville, where a population of red legged frogs was discovered. The federally protected species was found in 1997 during an environmental study connected to a proposed timber harvest plan in the area. The pond is a drainage of North Weber Creek.



The species had been thought to be extinct in the Sierra until 1995, when an earlier population was found near the Feather River in Plumas County.

Included in Monday’s meeting were officials from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, the American River Conservancy and the County Board of Supervisors. All but the County Board signed a “memorandum of understanding,” to cooperate in efforts to protect the species.




“The species was common in the Sierra prior to the Gold Rush,” said Alan Ehrgott, executive director of the American River Conservancy.

“But they were hunted by 49ers for their legs,” he said. “They were also subject to predation by bull frogs and sunfish, which were introduced to the area later.”

Ehrgott noted that the frog really began to disappear about 20 years ago, and was recently thought to be extinct in the upper elevations.

“We think of the frog as a sort of water quality canary,” he said. “Miners used canaries to test the air quality in the mine shafts, and the frog serves the same purpose for water quality. So there was some excitement in finding a significant breeding population of the frog.”

Late last year, the American River Conservancy purchased a 54-acre site around the pond where the frogs were discovered, a purchase it funded through loans and private donations. On Tuesday, the Wildlife Conservation Group approved a grant which will allow ARC to pay off the loans. Total purchase price of the property was a little more than $300,000.

“Now science is brought to bear to protect this species,” Ehrgott said. “There are several options as to how to best allow the frog to recover. As an example, we’re looking to cooperate with other pond owners to possibly relocate numbers of the species to other areas.”

Ehrgott says that ponds can be drained to rid them of predator species such as bull frogs and bass. Then the red legged frog could be introduced to the predator-free environment.

“That’s just one possibility,” he said. “A big concern is how to do this with the least possible impact to the taxpayer.”


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