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Preble's meadow jumping mouse
Historic 757-species Agreement
Wyoming Star-Tribune, August 5, 2011

Fish and Wildlife Service reinstates Preble's meadow jumping mouse protections in Wyoming

The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse will again be protected in Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act as of today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday.

The agency reinstated protections for the mouse, which is already protected in Colorado, in order to comply with a requested court order.

Preble’s populations throughout the species’ range in Colorado and Wyoming will be federally protected, with a special rule in place to allow rodent control, agricultural operations, landscape maintenance, noxious weed control, ditch maintenance, and other specified activities to occur, provided they are conducted in accordance with the requirements of the special rule, according to a media release.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will work closely with the state of Wyoming and private landowners to minimize the disruption this action will cause, the release said. The agency said it will provide streamlined Endangered Species Act consultation and identify measures that will facilitate traditional land uses.

The agency will not reinstate its previous designation of critical habitat for the mouse in Wyoming.

In 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service removed Endangered Species Act protection for Preble’s populations in Wyoming but continued them in Colorado, based on an interpretation of the law that allowed the agency to apply Endangered Species Act protections to those portions of a species’ range where the agency believed it was most threatened, rather than in all the places where it is found, the release said.

Conservation groups, including Rocky Mountain Wild, the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife, filed suit against the removal of the protections in Wyoming. They argued that the government’s interpretation of the “Significant Portion of Range” policy under the Endangered Species Act violated the requirements of the law.

The FWS interpretation rested on a policy definition of the meaning of “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of the range,” which was subsequently invalidated by two court rulings. As a result of those rulings, the Fish and Wildlife Service began developing a revised policy regarding the interpretation and implementation of the “significant portion of the range” language.

In the absence of a new “significant portion of the range” policy, the agency asked the court to remand the Preble’s decision back to FWS to allow it to reinstate protections for the mouse in Wyoming. The court granted this request last month.

Conservation groups hailed the action.

“This is a great day for wildlife,” Duane Short, Wild Species program director with Biodiversity Conservation Alliance of Laramie, said in a news release. “Wyoming streamside habitats offer the best chance for survival of the jumping mouse, and especially with Colorado jumping mouse populations decimated by development, it is critical to protect this rare animal where it has the best chance to survive.”

“It has taken years to restore the fundamental Endangered Species Act protections originally intended for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, but now that science and common sense have prevailed, the mouse and all of us who rely on clean and healthy streams in the Front Range of Colorado and Wyoming can breathe a sigh of relief,” Josh Pollock, Conservation Director at Rocky Mountain Wild, said in a release.

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., blasted the decision.

“The Endangered Species Act designations are said to be based on the ‘best available’ science,” Lummis said in a media release. “Today’s relisting announcement by the USFWS is another reminder that many listings are actually based on the best available lawyer.

“The repercussions of these listings are broad, and the fact is these designations are now mostly driven by the courts instead of wildlife experts, which was never the original intent of the ESA. It is all the more reason that Congress, for the first time in over 20 years, must modernize the ESA.

“Wyoming’s farmers, ranchers and landowners are the ultimate stewards of the land. Unfortunately, they are hit the hardest by this designation, and the negative economic impacts will be felt by communities throughout the state.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service says it will conduct a new status review and make a new finding on petitions from the state of Wyoming and Coloradans for Water Conservation and Development seeking to delist Preble’s populations in Wyoming by June 2013. The revised finding will be informed by the policy on “significant portion of the range” language, and both the finding and policy will be made available for notice and comment, the release said.

The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse was first added to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 1998 as a threatened species. The species is threatened by habitat alteration, degradation, loss and fragmentation resulting from urban development, flood control, water development, agriculture and other human land uses.

Copyright 2011 trib.com.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton