Yosemite National Park launches effort to restore endangered yellow-legged frogs in alpine lakes

‘Today we know these frogs are a key part of healthy mountain lake ecosystems …’
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A Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Staff Report
FRISCO — National Park Service biologists say a targeted restoration effort in Yosemite could rebuild populations of endangered yellow-legged frogs back to self-sustaining levels within 10 years.

Yellow-legged frogs were once the most common frog in mountain lakes throughout the Sierra Nevada, but in recent decades were nearly wiped out by non-native species and by disease. By 2005, biologists could only find 11 widely scattered populations, with perhaps a couple of thousand frogs total. Continue reading

Bighorn sheep return to Yosemite high country

 Reintroduction part of overall bighorn sheep recovery effort

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Bighorn sheep are released into Yosemite National Park and the Cathedral Range in late March, 2015. Photo courtesy Yosemite Conservancy/Steve Bumgardner.

Staff Report

FRISCO — It took 100 years, but bighorn sheep have returned to high country of Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, as federal and state biologists last month transplanted small herds of the mammals to their new homes.

Between March 26 and March 29, 2015, nine ewes  and three rams were moved from the Inyo National Forest and Sequoia National Park to the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park. In addition, seven ewes were moved to the Laurel Creek area of Sequoia National Park, with plans to relocated three rams to that area.

The Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep is the only federally endangered mammal in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon. The species was listed in 2000 after the population plunged to just 100 individuals. Since then, the population has since increased to more than 600. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Rare fox spotted in Yosemite National Park

Just 50 Sierra Nevada red foxes remain in the wild

A Sierra Nevada red fox. Photo courtesy USFWS.

A Sierra Nevada red fox. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the rarest mammals in the American West may be making a comeback in the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite National Park biologists this week confirmed a sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox in the northern reaches of the park — the first the speices has been seen in Yosemite for nearly 100 years.

“We are thrilled to hear about the sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox, one of the most rare and elusive animals in the Sierra Nevada,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. “National parks like Yosemite provide habitat for all wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red fox was sighted in the park.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been considering endangered species protection for the species since late 2011. There are only two known populations, one near Mt. Lassen and the other near Sonora Pass, just north of Yosemite, with a total population estimated at about 50 individuals. Continue reading

Public lands: National parks crack down on drones

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Badlands National Park — not a place for drones.

Yosemite, Zion national parks issue reminders on aircraft regulations

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing impacts to wildlife and other concerns, the National Park Service has cracked down on the use drones in Yosemite and Zion national parks under existing rules that regulate aircraft in the parks.

According to a press release from Yosemite National Park, drone use has skyrocketed the past few years, as visitors use them to film rock climbers and to get other aerial footage. Along with concerns about impacts to nesting raptors, park service officials said drones can impact the natural soundscape, which the agency is required to protect. Continue reading

Travel: 9 free days at U.S. National Parks in 2014!

Your lands: 84 million acres, 17,000 miles of trails

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Badlands National Park, South Dakota. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — This year, you’ll have nine chances for a fee-free visit to one of America’s 401 national parks, starting as soon as Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 20, 2014). The park service recently announced the 2014 schedule of free days, offering the fee-free visits as a way to encourage visitation.

The 2014 entrance fee-free days are:

Environment: Yosemite National Park planners finalize restoration plan for Mariposa giant sequoia grove

Fire and water crucial to big-tree ecosystem

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Giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park.

FRISCO — With an eye toward an uncertain climate future, national park resource managers are finalizing a restoration plan for the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park.

The stand of about 500 trees was included in the Yosemite Grant that was signed into law on June 30, 1864. This marked the first time the federal government set aside land for protection and is considered to be the genesis of the national park idea. The Mariposa Grove are among the oldest, rarest, and largest living organisms in the world. The trees can live longer than 3,000 years.

About a third of the sequoias in California were cut between the the 1860s and 1950s. Studies suggest that the distribution of the trees is driven by climate, constrained by cold temperatures at upper elevations and limited by the availability of water at low elevations.

In the restoration plan, scientists say restoring natural hydrological and fire cycles is the key to success, since sequoia germination, establishment and persistence are largely driven by fire and hydrology. Continue reading

Illegal pot farmers killing rare wildlife in California

Between 80 and 90 percent of dead fishers in study area found with traces of rodenticides

Marijuana growing on national forest land near Winter Park Ski Area.

A rare fisher. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —While comic book characters like the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers may live up to the stereotype of Earth-loving hippies, the reality of pot-growing on public lands is far uglier.

In a new study, UC Davis researchers found that rat poison deployed by illegal marijuana growers is killing rare forest mammals like the fisher, which makes its home in some of California’s most remote backcountry terrain.

Fishers in California, Oregon and Washington have been declared a candidate species for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“I am really shocked by the number of fishers that have been exposed to significant levels of multiple second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides,” said pathologist Leslie Woods of the UC Davis California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, which conducted the necropsies. Continue reading

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