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For Immediate Release, June 23, 2009

Contacts:  Erin Robertson, Center for Native Ecosystems, (303) 546-0214 x 5
Duane Short, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, (307) 742-7978
Dr. Sylvia Fallon, Natural Resources Defense Council, (202) 513-6246
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Jason Rylander, Staff Attorney, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-3245

Suit Filed to Overturn Bush-era Removal of Protections for
Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse in Wyoming

DENVER— Five conservation groups today challenged a Bush administration decision to strip protections from endangered species. Under Bush’s leadership, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was ordered to stop protecting endangered plants and wildlife throughout their ranges, and instead only protect the populations that were closest to extinction. Under this controversial reinterpretation of the Endangered Species Act, important habitat for endangered species recovery will not be protected. The Bush-era interpretation has already denied protections for several endangered species, and puts wildlife around the country at risk. For now, conservation groups have focused their challenge on the unwarranted loss of protections for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.

On July 10, 2008, the Service removed protections for the Preble's meadow jumping mouse in Wyoming while keeping the Colorado populations on the endangered species list. Since August 11 of last year, Wyoming Preble’s meadow jumping mice have no protection.

Due to habitat loss and the mouse’s disappearance from much of the urban corridor in Colorado and Wyoming, the Preble’s mouse had been protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1998.

“Endangered species around the country are losing protections while this illegal move by the Bush administration stands,” said Erin Robertson, senior staff biologist with Center for Native Ecosystems in Denver. “The fate of the mouse is important, but there is much more at stake.”                                                             

The removal of protections for Preble's in Wyoming is one of several decisions issued by the Service since its March 2007 receipt of a memo from the office of the solicitor proclaiming that the Endangered Species Act allows the agency to neglect all but the most threatened part of an endangered species' range. Similar “split decisions” have failed to fully protect the gray wolf, Gunnison's prairie dog, and Queen Charlotte goshawk.

The July decision was the last in a string of Bush administration attempts to remove protections for the jumping mouse. The Service had claimed in 2005 that the mouse was not a valid subspecies and therefore did not warrant continued protection. In 2006 an independent scientific panel concluded that the Service had relied on contaminated data, and that the Preble's meadow jumping mouse was unique and warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act.

"The science is settled," said Dr. Sylvia Fallon, staff scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C. "The mouse is unique and in trouble. Mice don't read maps - it makes no sense for protections to end at the state line for endangered species."

In 2007, under pressure from Congress to account for politically motivated decisions about endangered species, the Service admitted that the 2005 proposal to remove protections for the mouse and much of its critical habitat was instigated by political appointee Julie MacDonald. An earlier Interior Department investigation had concluded that MacDonald inappropriately overruled agency scientists’ conclusions and recommendations.

"The Obama administration needs to reject this piecemeal approach to protection and salvage the agency’s scientific integrity," said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity. "Wyoming's mice are just as important for the species' survival as those in Colorado."

"Our country's endangered wildlife is suffering from these lingering abuses of the Bush administration," said Jason Rylander, staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. "It makes no sense for the protection of an imperiled animal to depend on which side of the state line it lives."

Duane Short, wild species program director for the Wyoming-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, said: "Patchwork protection for this mouse or any endangered species is akin to planned extinction by neglect. If we fail to protect the jumping mouse populations in Wyoming, there will be no hope of recolonizing Colorado habitats if those critically imperiled populations die out.”

The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse has large hind feet, long hind legs, and is capable of impressive athletic feats. Using its long tail as a rudder, the mouse can launch itself 18 inches into the air and switch direction mid-flight.

The groups filing suit in Denver District Court today are Center for Native Ecosystems (Denver), Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (Laramie), Natural Resources Defense Council (New York), Center for Biological Diversity (Tucson), and Defenders of Wildlife (Washington, D.C.). They are being represented by Eric Glitzenstein of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal and Mike Harris of the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic.

For a high-resolution image of the Preble's meadow jumping mouse, the Service’s decision, the memo from the office of the solicitor, and other supporting materials, visit: http://nativeecosystems.org/species/mammals/prebles-meadow-jumping-mouse.


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