Letters to the Editor

Red-legged frog has value

THE NEWs/Files Yukiko Tanaka is concerned about the affect a municipal gravel pit could have on  red-legged frog habitat on Blue Mountain. -
THE NEWs/Files Yukiko Tanaka is concerned about the affect a municipal gravel pit could have on red-legged frog habitat on Blue Mountain.
— image credit:

Editor, The News:

Have you ever heard about red-legged frogs? I have seen them on several occasions on Blue Mountain. They mate in late winter or early spring, spend four to five months as tadpoles, then metamorphose into tiny froglets by mid-summer. Red-legged frogs take three to four years to become mature adults.

Frogs are particularly sensitive to environmental pollution because their moist skin can directly absorb toxic substances from air and water. They are often regarded as indicator species of environmental change, like the proverbial canaries in the coal mines, since their presence can indicate the health of the environment.

Red-legged frogs are found from north-western California to south-western B.C. In Canada, it is listed as species of special concern.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) stated the reason for designation being “a large proportion of the known Canadian distribution of this species occurs in the densely populated south-western part of B.C. and habitats are becoming increasingly lost and fragmented due to land conversions and other human activities (COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report, 2004.)

Maple Ridge council unanimously passed a proposal to develop a gravel pit, asphalt and concrete processing operations on a municipal property along 256 Street, at the western foothill of Blue Mountain.

The proposed development site is a mature second growth forest with a permanent wetland and a tributary to north Kanaka Creek. It is a known habitat of red-legged frogs, and, unfortunately, proposed 30-metre setbacks most likely will not save their habitat.

Gravel pit operations, which will surround the proposed setbacks, cause changes in the surface and subsurface water flow-patterns. Especially during summer, wetland is fed by ground water, which may become reduced in quantity and possibly being contaminated.

Red-legged frogs require a combination of clean water and intact terrestrial habitat to complete their life cycles. Adult red-legged frogs migrate between aquatic breeding sites and terrestrial foraging habitats, sometimes over many kilometres. Fragmentation of habitat is the major cause of their declining population.

I was at both the Oct. 17 public hearing and the Oct. 2 council meeting when the voting took place. I was there to represent the views of the Blue Mountain and Kanaka Conservation Group and spoke up against the gravel pit, citing the wildlife and hydrological issues. Unfortunately, council voted in favour of the pit development, unanimously.

The destruction of the red-legged frog habitat, despite of the frog being nationally listed as a species of special concern and on the provincial blue list, seemed of little concern in comparison to the economic gain for Maple Ridge in mining gravel.

Unfortunately, most politicians recognize environmental protection only when they see economic returns from it. Red-legged frogs do not have economic value to humans, but I think nature has intrinsic value and we need to acknowledge our dependence on the same biophysical factors that support all other life forms.

The provincial Ministry of Environment has a program called the B.C. Frogwatch Program. Its website (www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/frogwatch) provides a wide range of information about native amphibians.

Yukiko Tanaka

(Maple Ridge)

Blue Mountain and Kanaka Creek Conservation Group

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