News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 414

ARRA funds help rare frog, community

BLM’s Hollister Field Office has completed the first phase of a project funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to help restore populations of the California red-legged frog, a federally threatened species.  The project included renting a bulldozer from a local business, provided work for a consulting biologist, and provided work for the San Benito Resource Conservation District, an important community resource which was in dire straits due to a lack of funding. (text continues below)

An equipment operator uses an excavator to work on one of the ponds
An equipment operator uses an excavator on one of the ponds.

Workers have completed improvements at three ponds on Lower Mine Creek.  "The ponds were almost completely silted in and were not viable breeding habitat," said Michael Westphal, ecologist in the Hollister Field Office.  "We greatly improved the quality of the berms at all the ponds, expanded the area and depth of all ponds, and cleaned the springs that feed each pond."

All three ponds will likely be excellent breeding habitat for California red-legged frogs, which we have observed elsewhere in the drainage, he said.  "Given the capacity of red-legged frogs to move around the landscape, we expect all three ponds to be colonized this spring and hope to see good numbers of baby frogs in the ponds in late summer 2010."

The groundbreaking collaborative project with private landowners and public agencies will restore California red-legged frog habitat on public and private lands encompassing an entire watershed in Merced, San Benito, and Fresno counties.

The project will create two new ponds on public lands in tributaries of Mine Creek and Mercey Creek, as well as the restoration of three existing ponds on adjacent private lands, for a total of more than 10 acres of new breeding habitat. The work will increase frog occupation of more than 20 miles of riparian habitat.  Estimated cost of the project is $75,000.  The initial phase was done in November 2009 and the project will be completed in June 2010.

"Increasing the amount of breeding habitat available to the frog will secure the population against stochastic extinction events such as catastrophic pond failure and lay the foundation for future population expansion," Westphal said.  "The project will bring California red-legged frogs closer to recovery both by direct increase in habitat and by the creation of enduring partnerships with private landowners and local resource conservation districts, which will result in enhanced protection of frogs on private lands."

California red-legged frogs at another pond
California red-legged frogs on the banks of a pond

Before: a pond is almost completely silted in
Before: a pond is almost completely silted in
Deepening a pond with the excavator

Blading a berm around one of the ponds

After: More room to hold water, plus an island of vegetation
After: a pond has room for waterm plus some vegetation

- M. Westphal, BLM-California Hollister Field Office

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 414