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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 20 May 2011 14:29:25 -0700
Richard Reineccius <[log in to unmask]>
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Richard Reineccius <[log in to unmask]>
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Today is ENDANGERED SPECIES DAY, and one of the listed species is the CALIFORNIA RED-LEGGED FROG - 90% GONE, according to the EPA and most other sources. It is the species of frog that hung out along streams and rivers of the Sierra Nevada Foothills, especially Calaveras County/Angel's Camp area, and the type that Jim Smiley encouraged to jump, and encouraged betting. Without it, the first famous story that Twain wrote in San Francisco in 1865 would not have gotten scribbled and sent East, and who knows what may have ensued in his attempts at writing. (see below for a poignant story of African frogs invading the contest in 1985)

  Now the frog is almost gone. A major habitat is a wetland around the 14th Hole of the Sharp Park Golf Course just south of San Francisco, owned by SF's Recreation and Parks Department, though it is in the county of San Mateo, just to the south of the "Jewel of the West".  The Center for Biological Diversity wants the hole closed to golfers, who are predictably enraged at losing a hole, which they consider their right to own. I say 17 holes is enough for most golfers.


   Five years ago the  U.S. Senate set aside the third Friday of May to promote the conservation of  wildlife, fish 
and plants threatened with extinction. This year the Senate is  once 
again in unanimous support of the holiday, and May 20 — today — is it. 
So  drop your regular-Friday routine for two minutes and send your friends e-postcards reminding them that species  everywhere, from the flashy greater sage 
grouse to the warty boreal toad, are  in trouble — and that if we all 
pull together, we can save them. The Center for  Biological Diversity 
and its supporters (you) have already put a long list of  needy plants 
and animals on the road to recovery, but there’s always more work  to be done.
After you're finished  sending postcards, take another few minutes to take action. The Center has an  online Take  Action page where you can sign up for email alerts, find out about local  
events, share actions, learn about people working for conservation 
across the  country and get tips on other things you can do to help save species. (And don’t forget to share our Take Action page on Facebook, so everyone you know can see what you’re doing to help and join  in.)
You and your friends can help offline, too, through activities like attending public meetings,  organizing events, 
writing to your local newspaper — and just spreading the  word about how important it is to safeguard rare species and the last wild  places 
they call home. 
So go ahead and  celebrate Endangered 
Species Day right: Give yourself a pat on the back for all  you’ve done 
so far, then keep on doing it. 
Go to the Center’s  website to learn more about our campaigns to save the species in the postcards  below: the Hawaiian  monk seal, boreal  toad, piping  plover and sage  grouse.
Click on an image to send an Endangered Species Day postcard.    
 IN 1985 (I think the year is right), Twain Sesquicentennial year,  a pair of impish, imposingly tall Texas rattlesnakes rolled into Angel's Camp with a tank of large African frogs, and applied to enter the contest. HORRORS! ... cried the town fathers, who called an emergency meeting in the Town Hall to deal with the threat of the local frogs losing the contest, which was most certainly in the cards.  They solved it, they thought, by passing a law stating that the entries had to be "American Frogs Only."  Problem solved, they thought. But the two tall Texans phoned home to their lawyer, who quite quickly did a search and found that the "alien" frogs were indeed born and raised just over the Texas-Louisiana border, produced a long-form certificate of proof, which a county court judge in Calaveras had to agree proved that the long amphibians were indeed Americans.
   As I recall, a second category of frogs over a certain length was quickly voted by the Jumping Frog Festival sponsors, and this has been the situation since. Two contests to bet on turned out to be better than just one, I've read, for the betting community. 

   There's also a highly recommended rock festival going on at the same time. Perhaps the rockers music drove the frogs west to the coast of San Mateo County.