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The USFWS Recovery Champion awards recognized USGS researchers Robert Fisher, Adam Backlin, and Elizabeth Gallegos for their work in advancing the recovery of the California red-legged frog in Southern California. 

USGS Western Ecological Research Center biologists Robert Fisher, Adam Backlin, and Elizabeth Gallegos are part of a binational team honored with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 2023 Recovery Champions Award for their work in advancing the recovery of the threatened California red-legged frog. Partners on the project include Fauna del Noroeste A.C., San Diego Natural History Museum, The Nature Conservancy of California, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, City of San Diego, and Mesa Grande.

Video Transcript
Overview of the California red-legged frog recovery project. 

The team collectively moved the species closer to recovery by helping to reestablish the frog in the southern-most portion of its range where it had disappeared decades earlier. They demonstrated vision and leadership in developing a bi-national reintroduction plan which included transporting egg masses from Baja California, Mexico to sites in Riverside and San Diego counties, California. Efforts of these USGS scientists to work with landowners to identify suitable habitat for releases, along with management and monitoring of the species, demonstrate how they exemplify the USFWS’s mission of working with others to conserve species and their habitats for the benefit of the American people.

The California red-legged frog has been absent from Southern California for over 20 years. California red-legged frogs were in decline statewide since the 1970s and ultimately disappeared from a 250-mile stretch between southern California and northern Baja California largely due to habitat loss, fungal disease, and predation by non-native species. The species was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1996. 

The Recovery Champions Award is an annual honor given by the USFWS to provide recognition to select employees and their partners for work in advancing the recovery of endangered and threatened species.

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