Editor, Ceres Courier,
D6, a highly popular zone for central California deer hunters, lies in Tuolumne County and covers the Stanislaus National Forest and Emigrant Wilderness. Did you know D6 might be largely off limits if the Yellow Legged Frog and the Yosemite Toad are added to the Endangered Species list? You'll have to find another place to hunt, farther away from home, or risk substantial penalties for encroaching on the critical habitat of these little amphibians.
Look what happened in the Angeles National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service closed 1,000 acres along the Pacific Crest Trail due to the Yellow Legged Frog. The Williamson Rock Closure Area of the Angeles National Forest was considered "temporary" when enacted in December 2005. Violation of this prohibition is punishable by a fine of $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both. The order has been extended year after year and the area is still closed, seven years later.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the frog and toad populations are declining and must be protected from non-native trout, from an African fungus, from recreational activities, and from climate change. The USFWS wants to set aside 2.2 million acres of critical habitat in the Sierra Nevada in order to protect the frogs and toads but there is no conclusive proof this enormous restriction will actually work. In a public hearing I attended last month in Sonora, the USFWS rep admitted there is no evidence that recreational activities or increasing the amphibians' habitat would reduce the decline of their population. Scientists know of no way to stop the fungus infection or how to control Mother Nature, so how will declaring huge areas "off limits" improve the situation?
The USFWS-proposed critical habitat covers about 35 percent of Tuolumne County and 90 percent of the Emigrant Wilderness. That doesn't leave much room for deer hunting, mountain biking, fishing, camping, hiking, trail riding or any other recreational activities we human beings like to do. Not to mention the negative impacts on the economic and social fabric of the area! Reduced recreational opportunities translate to fewer people visiting the area, decreased income from tourism, reduced revenue from taxes, fewer job opportunities, decline in population, and on and on.
Those who hunt in D6 and others who ride and hike on these public lands, pay attention to what's going on. Be aware that a decision is in the works that will severely limit your future recreational opportunities.
Let the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know that the frog and toad don't need to be listed. Let them know that designating large expanses of critical habitat and restricting access to public lands will not have the positive effects they hope for. The USFWS will accept comments through Monday, Nov. 18.
Submit your comments online by going to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box. Enter FWS-R8-ES-2012-0100 (the docket number for the proposed listing rule) or FWS-R8-ES-2012-0074 (the docket number for the proposed critical habitat rule).
Or send your written comments by U.S. Mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2012-0100 or FWS-R8-ES-2012-0074, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM, Arlington, VA 22203.
Carol Jo Hargreaves