Colorado’s Only Alpine Amphibian
Boreal toads inhabit a variety of high-altitude wet habitats – such as marshes, wet meadows, streams, beaver ponds, glacial kettle ponds, and subalpine forest lakes- at altitudes primarily between 8,000-11,500 feet. They are Colorado’s only alpine amphibian and an indicator of the environmental health of our mountain streams and wetlands.
Amphibians in Decline
In the past two decades 168 known amphibian species on the planet have gone extinct. One third of the world’s amphibians are considered threatened, and almost half of all species are declining. The causes for recent amphibian declines are many, but an emerging disease called chytrid fungus and global climate change are thought the be the biggest threats to amphibians. Here in southern Rocky Mountain region boreal toads, once a common member of our alpine ecosystems, are estimated to occupy just 1% of their historical breeding areas.
The Current Battle for Protection
Rocky Mountain Wild and our partners have been working to gain Endangered Species Act protection for the boreal toad since 1993. Twice over the last two decades the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that species warrants consideration for protection. Both times, however, ESA protection has been denied.
The latest blow to our efforts came in September 2017 when the Service found that “despite lower population levels, fewer breeding sites, and reduced geographic distribution” the species was likely to persist for the next 50 years, and therefore did not warrant protection under the ESA.
We are currently weighing options for future action to conserve the boreal toad.