Environmental protections in place for local wildlife despite opposition

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- New federal protections are now in place to try to increase the mountain populations of two frogs and a toad but the decision comes despite heated opposition.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has declared a 3,000 square mile stretch of the Sierra Nevada from Butte County to Fresno County as a critical habitat for three amphibians.

The Yosemite Toad is listed as a threatened species while both the Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog and the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog are endangered species.

Yosemite National Park is included in the land designation and more controls will be in place on area activity.

"What it does is it lessens the stress of habitat loss on those populations," Mark Halvorsen with the Chaffee Zoo said. "It kind of preserves the areas where they're being found, give them that safe harbor site."

The land designation comes despite strong vocal opposition at public forums leading up to the decision but the US Fish and Wildlife Service said people shouldn't worry about suddenly losing access to some areas.

"We have been working since 2014 since the species were listed to put conservation practices in place to be protective and that has included all those activities - recreation, timber, grazing," field supervisor Jennifer Norris said.

The service said zoos in Oakland and San Francisco will be called on to try to increase the toad and frog populations.

"This exhibit is just one of our more popular exhibits in the whole place," Norris said.

Mark Halvorsen hopes to get Fresno's Chaffee Zoo involved as well.

"At this point, we're not but we're making a really hard push to develop facilities on ground to really participate because it's our obligation here," he said. "We're right in the heart of the Valley."

Halvorsen said a fungus called chytrid is adding to the amphibian losses.
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