Feds look to protect frogs, toads in Sierra Nevada

June 19, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The federal government is looking to restrict two million acres of land in fourteen counties including Fresno, Tulare, Mariposa and Madera.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims held Wednesday's meeting to gather support against what she calls a bust for our local rights and jobs.

Mims says restrictions over land for the three species are too far of a reach for the federal government. The amphibians are the Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged frog, the Mountain Yellow-Legged frog and the Yosemite Toad.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service says those species will die off unless the government steps in. Hundreds of angry residents packed into a room at Foothill Elementary. They say if the frogs and toad are listed as endangered people will be cut off from the rural life they choose to live.

"Look, if these laws were voted on and passed by people in my community I'd be able to take it a lot better," said James Winn of Tollhouse. "But the fact is this is just being imposed on us because they don't understand our way of life."

Mary Ellen Chacon drove to the meeting from Tulare. She's worried about drug cartels having free range if public use is restricted. She and others say the patches of protected land would likely grow; causing road closures and limits to personal land access.

"We wouldn't be able to get down to our claim," Chacon said. "A lot of people we know, a lot of our friends they have claims down there. They wouldn't be able to get to it."

Sheriff Mims says the federal government would not do enough to manage the land in the protected area increasing the risk for fire dangers. "It's just a matter of time before we have a large fire in Fresno County or any of these other areas because the forest wasn't properly managed," she said.

People also fear more water restrictions as future development of water storage would be tougher to come by. A US Fish and Wildlife spokesperson told Action News over the phone the protection is only geared at helping the frogs and toad populations rebound. She says it would not limit public activities on private land just future federal projects.

"Critical habitat consultation looks at the project, looks at the needs of the species and says how can we do this project and not further endanger the species," said Sarah Swenty.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is looking for as much public input as it can get You only have until Monday to comment on this phase of the project.


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