More mouse tales

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in its last throes, the Bush administration has been launching an all out attack on the Endangered Species Act. This is on top of its consistent chiseling over the years which has led to fewer protections for endangered wildlife.  Throughout it all, one of the Administration’s favorite targets has been the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse – an unassuming little mouse with giant feet and long tail for navigating its way mid-jump. 

PMJM Photo by Anne RugglesThis mouse, which makes its home along pristine streamsides in the foothills of Colorado and southern Wyoming, has been embroiled in so much controversy it could write its own screenplay.  First, there was the political appointee, Julie MacDonald, who tampered with a whole slew of endangered species decisions over the years including slashing the amount of critical habitat assigned for the Preble mouse’s recovery.  Then there was the genetic study touted by the state of Wyoming, which claimed the Preble's mouse wasn't really a Preble's mouse, but a common jumping mouse found across the plain states of the US.  Followed by a second genetic study that concluded the opposite- that yes, the Preble's mouse is a unique subspecies.  An independent scientific panel was brought in to assess the situation only to discover that the first genetic study was based on contaminated samples - sloppy science at best.  Case closed. No reason to remove protections from this threatened mouse.

But wait, there’s more.  Last year, another Bush appointee, the Solicitor for the Department of Interior – hailing from the state of Colorado, issued a memo that would allow piecemeal protections for endangered species.  The new policy, which is not subject to public review or congressional oversight, effectively changes how 35 years worth of endangered species protections would apply.  And soon after, the Fish and Wildlife Service uses this policy to lift endangered species protections for Preble’s meadow jumping mice in Wyoming, while keeping them listed in Colorado.  If they couldn’t find a way to achieve their ultimate goal of removing full protections from this mouse, they settled for the next best thing in what appears to be a political favor to the state of Wyoming.

But this isn't just about the mouse. This new policy has the potential to undo protections for every species now on the endangered species list and limit protections for imperiled wildlife in the future. That is why today NRDC has joined with partner organizations to challenge the policy and its application to the Preble's meadow jumping mouse. Unless this policy is reversed, the mouse's long tale of habitat loss and diminished protections will be just the beginning of the story for the rest of our endangered wildlife.

About the Authors

Sylvia Fallon

Senior Director, Wildlife Division, Nature Program

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