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Good News | Commentary by Linda A. Castro
| Friday, Jul 18, 2014

LindaCastroI am happy to say  it is now official. California has a state amphibian: the California red-legged frog.

The California red-legged frog is a rare species found almost exclusively in our state. It was once commonly found throughout California, but in 1996 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated it as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, due to the disappearance of the species from about 70 percent of its range.

Occurring in isolated locations in 20 of the state’s 58 counties, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified one critical habitat unit for the California red-legged frog in Los Angeles County. It is located in a portion of San Francisquito Canyon, east of Castaic Lake and Lake Hughes Road. (See the shaded area labeled LOS-1 in the map below.)

The adult California red-legged frog is between two and five inches long and is the largest native frog in the western United States. It became famous when Mark Twain featured it in his short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

ce0002California previously did not have a state amphibian, although more than 20 other states have them. So last fall, students at Sea View Elementary in Salton City, Calif., with the assistance and encouragement of teacher Virginia L. Haddad, decided to advocate for the red-legged frog to become the official state amphibian. They sought the help of Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, who introduced AB 2364, which declared the red-legged frog as the state amphibian.

Two of the students went to Sacramento to testify in support of the bill before the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. The bill passed the Assembly on April 24 and went on to the Senate, where it also passed. Then, on June 30, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 2364 into law.

Pérez said he was pleased the legislation was the first of his bills this year to be signed by the governor.

“As a former educator,” he said, “working with Sea View Elementary has been very gratifying for me. I want to particularly thank students Samantha Lambarena and Freedom Payne. This success of this bill is a validation of their vision, hard work and persistence. I’m so proud of them, and I hope that others will be inspired by their actions.”

Haddad with some of her students.

Haddad with some of her students.

The industrious and civic-minded efforts of Haddad and her students cannot be overstated. How many elementary school students do you know who come across a problem or issue such as these students did and choose to tackle it head-on?

It would have been much easier for them to do nothing upon learning that California did not have a state amphibian – but they didn’t. It would have been much easier for Haddad to tell the students they were in over their heads, that there was nothing that they could do – but she didn’t. Together, they made history and had the learning experience of a lifetime doing it.

Although the designation of the California red-legged frog as the state amphibian will not provide it with any new protection, the new status hopefully will spotlight its significance to California history, culture and ecology, so that more people will be inspired to work to protect it.

 

Linda Castro is a former attorney who is a nature enthusiast and animal lover.  She currently serves on the board of the SCV-based Community Hiking Club.  Her articles highlight local and community stories that are heartwarming, uplifting or inspirational.  If you have a story you’d like to share with her, contact her at poisonoak.linda@gmail.com.  Include photos if you’ve got them.

 

READ MORE about the California red-legged frog [here].

 

 

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