About 15 years ago in Merced, when our leaders were on fire with lust for the UC campus, the Fish & Wildlife Service had declared a critical habitat designation for the endangered species inhabiting vernal pools. Our leaders were outraged, organized rallies, vilified anyone in the region suspected of harboring an environmental thought. Politicians, at the behest of the finance, insurance and real estate special interests, pressured Service staff. Julie MacDonald, a high level political appointee at the Service, cajoled and threatened staff down to the field biologist level, and produced a bizarre “economic study” purporting to show the billions that would be lost to our regional and national economy by this horrible critical habitat designation.
We always assume our leaders read the documents that outrage them. Quite frequently, we are wrong in that assumption. Our leaders listen to the above mentioned FIRE special interests and it is not always easy to tell of the special interests read anything either. They have something they think is infinitely more powerful than the written word: a stupid, anti-regulatory, anti-government agenda based not on any kind of policy but on the psychology of individual, egoistic greed.
Eventually, the prime meddler in our critical habitat issue, Julie MacDonald, was investigated and disgraced by the Department of Interior Inspector Generalm in two reports.
The congressional duo we called the Pombozo at the time, former representatives Richard Pombo and Dennis Cardoza have passed into the Great Lobbyist Pool, and now we have a new gigging duo: representatives Tom McClintock (Carpetbagger-Elk Grove) and Devin Nunes Raving Lunatic-Visalia). The Gigging Duo have declared themselves the mortal enemies of several species of Sierra frogs and vow to darken the prongs of their gigs with the blood of the offensive amphibians, which stand in the way of the development of the Sierra into one mountain megalopolis to be called Auburnosa – all the way along Highway 49 from I-80 to Highway 140. Then Confederate flags will proudly wave from the tops of mountain-city halls and mountain-county administration buildings.
The mountain people these days seem to have an ideology that amenable to the demogogery of the Gigging Duo. It is built on the foundation of the denial of evolution. Once they have convinced themselves that evolution is just an atheist plot along with most of the rest of the science that provides them the means of living -- on what day did God create the pickup truck? -- it is pretty easy to move to two other positions. First, since there is no evolution, there is no need to give the frogs a chance for further evolution. Kill ‘em all and pave it over! Second, the denial of evolution at the same time presents these people with the irresistible argument that they must be perfect as they are. And therefore, their opinions are infallible.
Badlands Journal editorial board
Mother Lode forum on Sierra amphibian protections draws crowd…KEVIN VALINE, Modesto Bee
SONORA — About 400 people turned out Tuesday at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds to voice their frustrations with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to designate 1.83 million acres in the Sierra Nevada as critical habitat to protect frogs and toads.
The people who packed a fairgrounds building for the forum organized by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, came from more than a half-dozen foothill and mountain counties, including Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Mono and Inyo.
They fear the proposal would devastate their economies by limiting access to the land designated as critical habitat, making it harder to log trees, graze cattle, operate mines and enjoy the outdoors. They fear the proposal would devastate tourism and recreation, which are economic mainstays in their communities.
"It is without a doubt that the local economies in Tuol-umne County and all the other counties affected will be negatively impacted," said Tuolumne County Supervisor Randy Hanvelt, one of six experts McClintock invited to testify.
McClintock was joined on stage by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-
Tulare. They are critical of the Fish and Wildlife proposal and the Endangered Species Act. Fish and Wildlife is working under the act's provisions to protect the frogs and toads.
Nunes said the act has become an infringement on U.S. residents' liberties and freedoms. McClintock said Fish and Wildlife is using junk science in its efforts to protect the amphibians.
Those views struck a chord with nearly everyone at the forum. At one point, McClintock asked audience members who supported the Fish and Wildlife proposal to stand up. No more than a dozen people rose.
Audience member Megan Fiske, 24, who supports the proposal, asked McClintock why he picked only experts who oppose it. "I would expect to see more balance with the witnesses," she said.
McClintock said that's why he invited Fish and Wildlife officials. Alexandra Pitts, the agency's deputy regional director in Sacramento, spoke at the forum.
But many audience members were skeptical of Pitts' answers, and some said the federal government is more interested in protecting animals at the expense of people.
Fish and Wildlife officials are considering listing two types of yellow-legged frogs as endangered species and the Yosemite toad as a threatened species. Along with the listings, the federal agency is considering setting aside 1.83 million acres in the Sierra as critical habitat for the frogs and toads.
Fish and Wildlife officials say nearly all of the acreage is on federal land. Much of the areas are in Fresno (574,882 acres) and Tuol-umne (327,907 acres) counties. But the proposed critical habitat stretches across 17 counties, from Lassen in the north to Tulare in the south.
Fish and Wildlife officials say a critical habitat designation affects only activities that are authorized, funded or carried out by a federal agency. In those cases, the federal agency is required to consult with Fish and Wildlife to ensure that the proposed activity does not destroy or harm the critical habitat.
Fish and Wildlife officials expect to decide by April on whether to list the amphibians as endangered and threatened species and to set aside land for critical habitat.
The next step in the process will be the release of an economic analysis of the proposal. The analysis should go out by fall.
More information about the proposal — including how to submit a comment — is available athttp://fblinks.com/toad.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Listing and Critical Habitat | Critical Habitat
When a species is proposed for listing as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the Service must consider whether there are areas of habitat believed to be essential to the species' conservation. Those areas may be proposed for designation as "critical habitat." The determination and designation of critical habitat is one of the most controversial and confusing aspects of the ESA.
If critical habitat is designated, does that mean no further development can occur?
No. A critical habitat designation does not necessarily restrict further development. It is a reminder to Federal agencies that they must make special efforts to protect the important characteristics of these areas.
Does a critical habitat designation affect all activities that occur within the designated area?
No. Only activities that involve a Federal permit, license, or funding, and are likely to destroy or adversely modify the area of critical habitat will be affected. If this is the case, we will work with the Federal agency and, where appropriate, private or other landowners to amend their project to allow it to proceed without adversely affecting the critical habitat. Thus, most Federal projects are likely to go forward, but some will be modified to minimize harm to critical habitat.
What is critical habitat?
Critical habitat is a term defined and used in the Endangered Species Act. It is specific geographic areas that contain features essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management and protection. Critical habitat may include areas that are not currently occupied by the species but that will be needed for its recovery.
What steps are involved in a designation of critical habitat for a species?
We follow a strict legal process known as a rulemaking (or regulatory) procedure. Federal agencies follow this procedure to propose and adopt regulations that have the effect of law and apply to all persons and agencies under U.S. jurisdiction.
We publish proposals to designate critical habitat in the Federal Register, a daily Federal Government publication. We consider all information received during the public comment period and may refine our final designation based on this information. We then publish a rule finalizing the critical habitat designation.
How does the Service determine what areas to designate as critical habitat?
Within areas occupied by the species, biologists consider physical and biological features needed for life processes.
- space for individual and population growth and for normal behavior;
- cover or shelter;
- food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or physiological requirements;
- sites for breeding and rearing offspring; and
- habitats that are protected from disturbances or are representative of the historical geographical and ecological distributions of a species.
Biologists also consider unoccupied areas that are essential for the conservation of the species.
The areas shown on critical habitat maps are often large. Are all the areas within the mapped boundaries considered critical habitat?
No. Service rules normally exclude by text developed areas such as buildings, roads, airports, parking lots, piers, and other such facilities.
How many species have critical habitat designations?
As of March 1, 2013, critical habitat has been designated for 661 of the 1,499 U.S. species listed as threatened or endangered species.