11/28/2011 08:40 pm ET

California Bullfrog Ban May Go Hopping Into Reality

As demonstrated by the episode of the Simpsons where Bart single-handedly destroyed the Australian ecosystem by smuggling an American bullfrog onto a trans-Pacific flight, being green ain't easy on a foreign land.

Take California, for example--legislators in the Golden State are looking to ban all imports of bullfrogs due to a fungus commonly carried by the species that, while not particularly harmful to the bullfrogs themselves, is potentially lethal to a bevvy of other amphibians making their homes in the state.

Millions of the frogs enter California every year, and a larger percentage of them come in carrying the fungus. When the frogs escape or are released into the wild, there's the strong possibility that the disease will spread to native populations--causing irrevocable harm in the process.

The state's Fish and Game Commission banned the imports last year; however, when it came time for the Department of Fish and Game to actually implement the commission's policy, they balked.

The squabble started in March 2010, when the commission voted unanimously to direct the department to stop issuing permits for the importation of live frogs and turtles for food. A month later, however, it held a "reconsideration hearing" at the request of Asian American leaders who included five Assembly Democrats and state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who called the ban an assault on their cultural heritage.

Opponents also said it unfairly targeted Asian American businesses because it did not affect the sale of turtles and frogs at pet stores.

Yee, who recently mounted an unsuccessful campaign to become mayor of San Francisco, publicly opposed a statewide ban on shark fins, which are used in a popular Chinese soup, on similar grounds.

The California environmental non-profit Save The Frogs is now renewing the charge to get the Department of Fish and Game to enforce the ban--calling it an essential step in protecting California's native amphibian population.

"In terms of biodiversity loss...[the fungus] is the single worst disease in recorded history, wrote Save The Frogs Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger in an article published last year, "not just for frogs, but for any known organism.

American Bullfrogs were initially imported into the state in the late 1800s as an alternative source of frog legs after the seemingly never-ending flow of hopeful gold miners ate the state's native population of Red Legged Frogs to virtual extinction.