Yellow frogs aside, CDFW needs work on its people skills

Feather Publishing

Talk about a public relations disaster. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is in the middle of a massive one in Plumas County.

The CDFW’s 11th-hour announcement that it will start killing fish in a popular county lake next month in order to protect a dozen yellow-legged frogs was delivered with no warning. It was disrespectful. It was clumsy. Some are calling it arrogant.

Last week, two CDFW biologists accepted an invitation to speak at the Board of Supervisors meeting. You have to give the biologists credit for showing up. They had to know it would be a hostile crowd.

It appeared to be an attempt at damage control. But, in this case, the damage is already done. The more-than-50 residents in attendance listened to the biologists’ explanations with a wary eye. The audience said it doesn’t trust the state. And in this case, they have a good reason not to.

The fact that we are talking about protecting a frog is almost beside the point. There are strong arguments on both sides of the issue about whether it’s the right thing to do. In fact, if Plumas County would have been invited to be a partner in the frog survey, we might have reached the same conclusion as the state. That’s doubtful, but we might have offered some alternatives. At the very least, we would have felt like we were involved.

The problem was the state’s process.

It was no secret that the yellow-legged frog was headed for endangered status. We knew exhaustive and costly studies were supporting the effort. But not once did the CDFW bother to inform us that it was counting frogs in our backyard; and that the counting started more than 10 years ago.

The CDFW didn’t bother to tell us a year ago that it applied for $115,000 from the federal government to pay for killing the Gold Lake trout in the Bucks Lake Wilderness Area.

The CDFW didn’t tell us last September when it was awarded the money for the project.

When did we hear about it? ... April 3. About two months before the first gillnets were scheduled to hit the lake.

One statement last week by CDFW biologist Kevin Thomas summed up the state’s PR mistake. Thomas admitted “We should have come in September when we found out we got the money.” Yes, at the very least, that would have been the considerate thing to do.

But in his next sentence Thomas followed that seemingly contrite statement by saying “I’m not going to argue with you about it. It’s pointless.”

Pointless indeed. This is a done deal.

The yellow-legged frog has been officially listed as endangered. The listing guarantees the frog will have more rights and protection than any human could hope for.

Like the spotted owl before it, the impact of the frog’s protection could lead to further decimation of Plumas’ economy. What will happen if a yellow-legged frog is spotted hopping around a pond in some rancher’s pasture? What if a yellow-legger is seen swimming in Bucks Lake, Lake Davis or Lake Almanor?

The biologists say that isn’t likely. They say all the lakes in Plumas County have been surveyed and Gold Lake is only place where fish and endangered frogs could potentially mingle. Potentially is the key word. Because there aren’t even any frogs in Gold Lake. The CDFW is just hoping some will eventually move there once the fish are gone.

The CDFW wants us to trust them when they say no other lakes or streams will be affected. They want us to believe no other local species are being studied for possible induction into the “endangered” club.

We want to trust the state on this. We really do. But after the sneaky way they handled the Gold Lake situation, why should we?


Editorials are written by members of the editorial board and should be considered the opinion of the newspaper. The board consists of the publisher, managing editor and the appropriate staff writers.

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