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Legal Action Taken to Save Critical Habitat of Endangered New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mice
Historically these mice lived along streams in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, but its habitat has been devastated by livestock grazing, water mismanagement, drought and fire.
“This adorable jumping mouse is hovering on the brink of extinction,” said Ryan Shannon, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “In attacking habitat protection for these highly imperiled little creatures, New Mexico cattlemen are threatening its very survival. We had no choice but to intervene.”
The mouse’s historic range included riparian areas and wetlands along streams from southern Colorado to central New Mexico, and into parts of eastern Arizona. But in 2016 the Fish and Wildlife Service designated a mere 14,000 acres of critical habitat for the mouse across the three states.
Despite such limited critical habitat, two cattlemen’s associations filed suit earlier this year seeking to overturn the Service’s designation. The groups claimed the agency failed to fully consider the economic impact of designating critical habitat on their grazing allotments, and that the failure to exclude their allotments was unlawful.
The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse is unique, hibernating for up to nine months a year. This leaves only a narrow time frame each summer to mate, reproduce and gain enough weight to survive its long hibernation. The mouse has highly specialized habitat needs, such as tall, dense grasses and forbs found only in riparian areas along perennial flowing streams.
It is in these riparian areas that cattle concentrate during the summer months, when the jumping mice are active. Their intensive grazing destroys the riverine habitat and has resulted in isolated, fragmented populations that are highly vulnerable to occasional, yet inevitable, events such as wildfires.
“Streams and riparian areas are essential to the survival of most southwest wildlife species, in particular this unique jumping mouse,” explained Judi Brawer, Wild Places program director for WildEarth Guardians. “Public lands grazing, supported heavily by government subsidies, has decimated these life-giving arteries. The Fish and Wildlife Service already did an economic analysis, and it’s ironic that the ranchers want them to do more when they rely so heavily on federal lands and government subsidies.”
The groups intervening in the lawsuit include the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
WildEarth Guardians protects and restores the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West.