Attack of the $500,000 Tiger Salamander


Poppy. Quail. Garibaldi. Gold. California has an official symbol for just about everything, and now there’s a newcomer to the list: the California state amphibian is the red-legged frog, the frog made famous by Mark Twain’s short story “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife made the official amphibian proclamation July 15. “By declaring the California red-legged frog the official state amphibian of California, the Legislature and Governor acknowledge the species’ important place in the ecology, culture and history of California. It also broadcasts and reinforces the state’s commitment to protecting its rare resources, which include amphibians.”

It’s listed as a threatened species, and almost canceled a fishing derby in Rohnert Park one year. But in the North Bay, there’s another threatened amphibian that makes more headlines: the tiger salamander.

This dark, brightly-spotted creature can grow to about eight inches in length and can grow construction costs exponentially. The development community is well aware of this, as is the anti-development community—the poor little salamander is trotted out like a mouse in an elephant pen every time new development with big-box stores is proposed. Sonoma County is aware of this as well, as evidenced in an update about the proposed Moorland community park presented to the board of supervisors in March.

The park recently received a $471,000 state grant, but is seeking at least $1 million more in grant funds, and will need to match all those funds to complete the 4-acre park, officials estimate. Playgrounds, grass, goalposts and picnic tables all cost money, as does the property itself. But the California tiger salamander also costs money. “It is worth noting that the larger parcel has been identified as possible habitat for the California Tiger Salamander,” says the packet submitted to the board, “and it is anticipated that any type of development on that land will require mitigation with an estimated cost of $500,000.”

Looks like the red-legged frog gets the glory, but the tiger salamander gets the last laugh around these parts.