Jason Walsh, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE
Sonoma, meet the golden toad, a bright orange salientian – a wide-eyed rascal, slippery to the touch, and cute as a bug’s ear.
First discovered in 1964, the species has only ever been found in a remote, high-altitude region of Costa Rica, where as many as 1,500 have lived in the lower-altitude climes of an elfin cloud forest, an area less than two miles in radius. The glowing little hoppers would spend most of their 10-year lifespans in moist underground burrows, emerging for about a week in the spring to mate in pools of rainwater amid the twisted tree root. Ecologist Martha Crump, who studied them for decades, described them in her book, “In Search of the Golden Frog,” as “dazzling jewels on the forest floor.” The dazzle, however, wouldn’t last.
In 1987, during a particularly parched El Nino season, Crump observed a bitter drying of the rain pools, leaving behind “desiccated eggs… covered in mold.” Of the 43,500 eggs she counted, 29 hatched surviving tadpoles.
In 1988, fewer than a dozen toads emerged; the year after, only one. The golden toad has not been seen since – and bears the ill-fated distinction of being named in 2004 as the first species made extinct by human-caused global climate change.
The untimely demise of the golden toad would seem to have little to do with Sonoma. And yet it has everything to do with Sonoma – and all Sonomas, everywhere.
On Aug. 15, the Sonoma City Council tabled a discussion, and possible action, on the county’s Climate Action 2020, a regional plan to meet state-mandated greenhouse-gas emission reduction goals tied to eligibility for state funding.
The council on that Monday was set to consider the plan, plus eight additional Sonoma-specific GHG-lowering measures council members had previously suggested, as part of the County’s and its nine cities’ effort to achieve a 25 percent percent reduction in GHGs below 1990 levels by 2020. That’s even more ambitious than the state’s requirement to simply meet 1990 levels, as required by AB32. (Another bill in the works, SB32 would require counties to be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.)