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Little frog hardly worthy of massive effort to protect it

Feather Publishing
4/18/2014
 

It’s just a frog.

That’s a pretty blunt, and probably insensitive, statement in the eco-conscious world we live in these days. But it’s the simple truth.

Way too much time, energy and tax dollars are being dedicated toward making sure the yellow-legged frog has a comfortable place to live — safe from predators and man-made threats that could potentially mean doomsday for the 2-inch amphibian.

There is no doubt that times are tough for the few little yellow-legged hoppers that remain. The million or so acres in California that are considered the frog’s critical habitat are indeed shrinking. Some of the best and brightest minds have been dedicated to making sure the frog doesn’t join the woolly mammoth and passenger pigeon in the “extinct” wing of the museum.

Millions of dollars and hours have been dedicated to studies and plans to save the frog. Biologists are examining the problem from every angle.

But there is one simple question that should have been asked a decade ago: If the yellow-legged frog disappears, would anyone notice? Seriously. Does anyone really care?

Extinction is a part of evolution. Millions of species that once inhabited our planet are gone. They were replaced with species more suited to the environment. It’s called survival of the fittest. The strong adapt and survive. The weak? Well, you get the picture.

The species at the top of the food chain (that would be us) has been disrupting the natural order of things since we realized we could. We’ve moved other species around to suit our liking.

Hundreds of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, crustaceans, insects and plants didn’t exist in the Americas until our European, Asian and African ancestors brought them here (see horse, rabbit, chicken and rat, to name just a few).

As a result, other local life forms were forced to evolve, adapt or die.

So why have we decided to draw a line in the sand to save the spotted owl and the yellow-legged frog? What makes them any different than the passenger pigeon?

The impact of protecting the owl meant the decimation of the once-thriving timber industry in the West. The full impact of keeping the frogs alive is yet to be known. But it’s already being felt locally.

The first local victims are the brook trout in a small Plumas County lake and people who enjoy fishing for them.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s plan to remove non-native brook trout from Gold Lake in the Bucks Lake Wilderness Area will mean the end of fishing in that lake. The brook trout thrive in the lake. But they aren’t considered native because humans put them there a hundred years ago.

Granted, not too many anglers fish in Gold Lake. It is a relatively small body of water that requires some hiking to reach it. Regardless, the brook trout’s days in the lake are numbered — because they eat the yellow-legged frog.

If other local lakes are subject to the same fate, the ripple effect could result in yet another dent in our local economy. Imagine if the trout were removed from the much larger, easily accessible Gold Lake in Lakes Basin.

Tourism is vital to Plumas County. And many of those visitors come here for the fishing … not for the frogs.

The chance of the state pulling the fish out of all our lakes is zero. It won’t happen. But there is always the possibility that another yellow-legged frog will show up near a lake like Gold Lake.

If that happens, will the government issue another eviction notice to the trout?

We hope not.

Seriously, we are talking about one weak little species of frog. Maybe we should just let nature take its course.


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