Service Lists Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog Distinct Population Segments Under the ESA
Service Lists Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog Distinct Population Segments Under the ESA

Photo By/CreditRebecca Fabbri/USFWS

On August 29, 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a final rule listing two distinct population segments (DPS)—the North Feather and Central Coast DPSs—of the foothill yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii) (Frog) as threatened (Threatened DPSs) and two additional DPSs of the Frog—the South Sierra and South Coast DPSs—as endangered (Endangered DPSs) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In the preamble to the final rule, the Service indicated that designating critical habitat for all four DPSs of the Frog is not determinable at this time due to a lack of economic information on the impacts of designation. The Service also indicated it will continue to review economic data, in coordination with the state and other organizations.

The Frog is a small- to medium-sized stream-dwelling frog native to California and Oregon; however, all four of the identified DPSs listed by the final rule are located in California. The Endangered DPSs occur in the southern portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the southern coast of California, while the Threatened DPSs are found in northeastern California (near Lake Oroville and Butte County) and the California central coast. The Frog is usually mottled gray, olive, or brown and has fully webbed feet and rough, pebbly skin. The Frog’s name originates from its most recognizable feature: the underside of its rear legs are a bright lemon yellow. The Frog requires ample stream habitat, and feeds on a variety of plants and animals. Because the Frog uses waterway corridors to migrate or disperse, changes to stream habitat and altered hydrology (due to damming and utilization of water for urban or agricultural needs) negatively impact the Frog.

In the final rule, the Service identified altered hydrology, agriculture, illegal cannabis cultivation, predation by nonnative species, diseases and parasites, mining, urbanization, recreation, severe wildfire, drought, extreme flooding, and the effects of climate change as severe threats to the Frog, with the Endangered DPSs facing an immediate risk of extinction.

The Service also issued a rule pursuant to section 4(d) of the ESA for the Threatened DPSs, which sets forth to what extent the ESA section 9 prohibition on “take” will apply to those populations. The 4(d) rule for the Threatened DPSs applies the general take prohibition to those populations, with exceptions for take associated with certain activities related to: habitat restoration efforts; forest management measures including wildfire prevention activities, non-emergency suppression activities, and other silviculture best management practices; removal and restoration of trespass cannabis cultivation sites; nonnative species removal; and otherwise permitted activities.

The Federal Register notice states that the final rule will become effective on September 28, 2023. The Federal Register Notice and supporting documents are available at, under Docket Number FWS-R8-ES-2021-0108.

Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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