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Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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stories along The Way

Friday, October 23, 2009

Environmental impact of Station Fire hits City parks

The Pasadena Star News has been on top of some important environmental news of late. Today they report on the US Fish and Wildlife Service's efforts to support a very endangered frog whose critical habitat was severely impacted by the Station Fire. The fire also damaged the habitat of the Santa Ana Sucker, a fish found in the Big Tujunga portion of Hansen Dam Recreational Area.  Hansen Dam is a City of Los Angeles Regional Park and at 1400 acres it the third largest City park behind Griffith Park and Sepulveda Basin. Debris flows from this winter's predicted El Nino rains threaten to completely destroy the habitat of both the Santa Ana Sucker and the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog.

Issues of wildlife, critical habitat, and management in these large City parks are an important area where the Department of Recreation and Parks needs to improve their responsiveness. Given the City's current financial crisis, it is going to be up to the public and outside organizations with the proper expertise (and no hidden agendas) to help the DRP enact and support these activities if any improvement is to be made in the next few years.

Unless the general public steps up to the plate, nothing will change.

The Pasadena Star News story references the BAER Reports we previously mentioned were underway to study the Station Fire's environmental impact on the San Gabriels and surrounding communities. A number of those reports have been drafted and are available at the US Forest Service's BAER web page.

Here is the story:

Rare tadpoles rescued from Station Fire burn zone

By Emma Gallegos, Staff Writer

An adult mountain yellow-legged frog along Little Rock Creek in the Angeles National Forest. Monday, August 11, 2003. (SGVN/Staff photo by Bernardo Alps)

In a slippery, slimy rescue mission, federal workers this month scooped up and relocated 106 rare tadpoles to save them from possible fallout from the Station Fire. When the Station Fire rolled through the mountains this August, it burned Devil's Canyon, a prime habitat for the yellow-legged frog, which is on the federal endangered species list. So workers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service caught them and sent them to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, which recently formed a partnership with wildlife service. The Station Fire's effects could be particularly devastating for the small population of rare frogs that makes its home in the creeks and rivers of the San Gabriel Valley Mountains, said federal officials. The fire singed vegetation along banks where the frogs live and reduced the population of streamside insects the frogs feast on, like beetles, ants and flies, but scientists are especially worried about what could happen to the tadpoles when a winter storm blows through the Angeles National Forest. "Right now we're concerned that if there are heavy rains or even average rains, there could be a significant incidence of debris flows," said Stephanie Weagley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Mudslides caused by rain storms could wipe out the streams where the frogs live and choke them with ash, she said.

Thirty full-grown frogs will remaining in Devil's Canyon - a tributary of the west fork of the San Gabriel River. The tadpoles will stay at the zoo in Fresno at least until next spring, when scientists will reassess how the mountain yellow-legged frog's home has recovered, Weagley said. The mountain yellow-legged frog wasn't the only animal - nor the only endangered animal - threatened by the Station Fire. A team of federal scientists visited the Angeles National Forest in September to create a Burned Area Report (BAER) and assess how the Station Fire affected the wildlife, the geology, the water quality and even the historic sites. The report focused on four federally-protected species that make their home there including the frog: a fish called the unarmored threespine stickleback, the Arroyo toad and the Santa Ana suckerfish. This isn't the first time that a federal agency has stepped in to protect the federally-endangered frog. For the last four years, the U.S. Forest Service has closed off 1,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains from hikers, while scientists tried to figure out how humans were affecting the frogs.
(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4444