The Center for Biological Diversity today reached a settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that requires the agency to determine whether the foothill yellow-legged frog warrants protection as an endangered species by 2020. The frog has disappeared from more than half its former streams in California and Oregon and faces a host of threats, including impacts from dams and water diversions, logging, livestock grazing and invasive species. In response to a 2012 petition from the Center, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined last year that the foothill yellow-legged frog may warrant protection.

“Foothill yellow-legged frogs need habitat protections and recovery efforts under the Endangered Species Act to stem the risk of extinction,” said Jenny Loda, a biologist and attorney with the Center whose work is dedicated to protecting rare amphibians and reptiles. “Protecting these frogs will also benefit many of the rivers and streams in California and Oregon that we rely on for recreation, wilderness qualities, open space and drinking water.”

Foothill yellow-legged frogs are small (1.5 to 3 inches) with a distinctive lemon-yellow color under their legs. They inhabit low-elevation streams in Pacific Coast drainages, from the Willamette River basin in Oregon south to the San Gabriel River in Los Angeles County, Calif., as well as the lower western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains. They have disappeared from much of their historical range, especially in Southern California and Oregon. Other impacts to frogs include mining, marijuana cultivation, off-road vehicles, climate change, pollution and disease. Foothill yellow-legged frogs have declined severely in the southern Sierra Nevada, central California coast, Bay Area, south-central California coast and central Oregon. Each of these areas may contain distinct populations or subspecies of yellow-legged frogs.

“With nearly a third of the world’s amphibians in danger of extinction, we should be paying attention and taking action when one of our once-common native frogs is in rapid decline,” said Loda.