Guest column: We need solid research on frogs in Central Oregon

February 22, 2020
Guest column: We need solid research on frogs in Central Oregon

By Tony Dorsch

Dear Bulletin readers: My name is Tony Dorsch. I own a farm at Powell Butte. I have a master’s degree in zoology and botany from Oregon State University. My master’s degree research focused on behavior of the boreal toad, Bufo boreas boreas.

My study area included Todd Lake and Sparks Lake. Frogs and toads thrive here. Oregon spotted frogs inhabit 5,100 feet elevations, with plentiful lakes for breeding.

There is a growing conflict between “environmentalists,” ecologists and Central Oregon farmers over irrigation. Both farmers and frogs need water. With authentic biological research and practices, solutions for each are possible.

I am personally an ecologist, one who studies plant and animal species in their natural habitat, including environmental factors. My professional life has always included protection of natural species with attention to ecological needs.

What I am not, is an “environmentalist.” Environmentalists specifically classify and/or distinguish individual species on the basis of how much grant money they can raise and receive from government funds (your taxes). Grants are written to persuade the grantor to allocate federal money to solve some problem.

So, what is at the root of the conflict? First of all, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state, in writing, in their publication, as follows: “Status: Threatened,” not Endangered.

“Threatened” is not “Endangered.” A threatened organism is not yet endangered. It may become endangered later, but threatened means we need to look out for and care for any species, using authentic, ecological practices.

You all remember the spotted owl fiasco. Spotted owls were never endangered. How much of your taxes went into grants for environmentalists?

In 1907, Bend’s founder, A.M. Drake, constructed irrigation canals. In 1910 these canals were included in creating the Central Oregon Irrigation District. From that time on, COID chose to raise and lower water flow in canals periodically, depending on whether grass was growing or being harvested.

Now, thanks to the Department of Reclamation, responding to the Endangered Species Act, water fills the COID canals to the very top 100% of the time during irrigation season. Assuming canal water were raised inches, water would flood farmers’ fields. What good is this for spotted frog reproduction? Zero — zip!

So, what do environmentalists ultimately want? North Unit Irrigation District, a couple summers back, lost at least a month of agriculture growth because there was insufficient water supply in Wickiup Reservoir and Crane Prairie Reservoir. Do environmentalists truly want to drain water down to dirt and empty Wickiup and Crane Prairie Reservoir? Do they truly want to run farmers off their land? Do they prefer the development of acres and acres of houses over productive farmland? Crook, Jefferson and Deschutes County farmers must stand up and support agriculture over greedy development. Gather into hearings and fight.

Nearly every Central Oregon farm has a stock pond to water cattle and for irrigation. Five official Central Oregon water districts distribute water through our three counties.

Irrigation water leaves the Deschutes River south of Bend and at Bend, entering large canals, branching out to small canals and ditches. Countless numbers of stock ponds cover all three counties. Bullfrogs love stock ponds. Bullfrogs love spotted frogs — to eat whole! Frogs exit canals, entering ponds with hungry bullfrogs. Bullfrogs decimate Oregon spotted frogs.

Frogs need quiet, standing water to lay eggs and reproduce. It takes sloughs, ponds and backwater for frogs and toads to reproduce.

The Deschutes River, geologically, historically, has cut through basalt. Now it flows swiftly. Below Pringle Falls are oxbows. Below Sunriver, less standing water. With the combined drainage of Deschutes, Little Deschutes, Fall River, Crescent Creek, Tumalo Creek and Whychus Creek, frogs and toads will find reproductive habitat.

Finally, how are the Oregon spotted frogs doing? How does one trace numbers and movement of frogs? Is there any data collected? I know, from experience, that birds can be tagged and traced. Mammals can be tagged and traced. At least the Oregon Zoo collects spotted frog egg masses in the Willamette Valley, later releasing tadpoles into appropriate, aquatic habitat.

Meanwhile, send registered letters to your members of Congress. Write to our governor and local state representatives.

Ask them to explore true biological research and analyze results. Protest your tax dollars spent on doubtful, dubious research.

Graduate biologists conduct research, collect data, investigate, then write a thesis and ultimately achieve an academic goal. Their goal is to receive a master’s degree or Ph.D. Trust university ecologists with honest research.

Tony Dorsch owns a farm in Powell Butte and has a master’s degree in zoology and botany from Oregon State University. His master’s research focused on behavior of the boreal toad, Bufo boreas boreas. His study area included Todd Lake and Sparks Lake.

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An aerial view of a body of water.