SAVING THE FOOTHILL YELLOW-LEGGED FROG

The foothill yellow-legged frog is a striking stream-dwelling amphibian with a distinctive lemon-yellow color under its legs. It can be found in Pacific drainages from the upper reaches of the Willamette River system, Oregon, all the way south to the Upper San Gabriel River in Los Angeles County, California — also inhabiting streams on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in habitats as high as 6,300 feet. This attractive frog can be gray, brown or reddish on its back.

Once thriving across their range, now foothill yellow-legged frogs have disappeared from more than half their historical localities due to a very long list of threats: dams, water development and diversions, timber harvest, mining, livestock grazing, roads and urbanization, marijuana cultivation, off-road vehicles, climate change, pollution, invasive species and disease. The species has today disappeared across the area from Santa Barbara County to San Diego County, and its populations have declined severely in the southern Sierra Nevada, on the central California and Southern California coasts, in the Bay Area, and in central Oregon. All these areas may contain distinct populations or subspecies of yellow-legged frogs — each of which is special in its own right.

The Center petitioned in 2012 for protection of foothill yellow-legged frogs under the Endangered Species Act. We've also worked to protect yellow-legged frog habitat throughout California by pushing for reined-in pesticide use, helping reform the state's fish stocking policies, and challenging harmful land-management practices on federal lands such as logging, grazing and mining. In March 2016 we filed a lawsuit against the Service for dragging its feet on protecting the frog, in August of the same year reaching a settlement requiring listing by 2020.

In 2016 we also petitioned to protect the frog as "threatened" under California's state Endangered Species Act — and in response, in spring 2017, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended the state initiate a status review and consider an endangered or threatened listing for the frog. In summer 2017 the California Fish and Game Commission, in further response to our petition, voted to advance the foothill yellow-legged frog as a candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act.