Rare yellow-legged frogs are returned to drought-hammered San Gabriel Mountains, even after they were deemed unfit for release last spring. This is the first time they’ve ever been released in the wild, the San Gabriel River has been closed to salmon for a year, and several years ago a federal judge threatened the return of the species.
The yellow-legged frogs’ fate is now dependent on the support of a small group of like-minded environmentalists who have banded together in the past few months in hopes of reining in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to bring them back and reintroduce them to the wild.
This “Wild Frog Project” is working with the Service to get the yellow-legged frogs and other species off the endangered species list and allowed to return to the wild as species that are not at high risk for extinction in California.
“These frogs have been in captivity for a very long time, and we need to get them into the wild,” says Michael A. Anderson, the U.S. District Attorney for San Diego, which is spearheading the effort. “We need to bring them back to California. We have a lot of work in front of us.”
For more than a century, scientists have been worried that the San Gabriel Mountains along the upper reaches of the Coachella River — a few miles inland from the Pacific Ocean — would become dry and unproductive. An active volcano on Mount San Gorgonio had been active since at least 1540 C.E., and that volcano eventually caused the rapid expansion of the San Gabriel River’s channels.
The dry conditions and low flow of water eventually led to flooding of the mountains and the formation of the San Gabriel-Madera River. The region was later designated a major ecological area in 1959, and the San Gabriel River was reclassified an endangered species in 1960, two years before the yellow-legged frog was listed.
The yellow-legged frog is now listed as threatened, and the region is classified as an “inactive” ecological area. The only action that has been taken is the construction of a five-mile-long dam with an 8,000-acre reservoir to provide additional water for the San Gabriel River.
It has been the subject of legal claims — and