Groups file notice of lawsuit over mouse delisting |

Groups file notice of lawsuit over mouse delisting

The Associated Press
Summit County, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/Colorado State UniversityThe Preble's meadow jumping mouse has been the subject of a legal dispute over how to protect endangered species.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. ” A coalition of environmental groups said Thursday that it plans to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a policy that allows the agency to provide Endangered Species Act protections for only part of a species’ range.

The groups filed a 60-day notice of their intent to sue with Fish and Wildlife and the Interior Department, a step that’s required by the Endangered Species Act before a lawsuit is filed.

The groups say the pending lawsuit was prompted by the government’s July decision to remove protections for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse in Wyoming, while maintaining protections in Colorado.

“The science is settled,” said Sylvia Fallon of 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.”

The Preble’s mouse had been listed as a threatened species since 1998. In July, the Fish and Wildlife Service said the mouse could be delisted in Wyoming because new populations had been confirmed in habitat not at risk for development. But in Colorado, home construction and other types of development continued to threaten Preble’s mouse habitat. The decision took effect in Wyoming on Aug. 11.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Diane Katzenberger said Thursday that she couldn’t comment on the possible lawsuit. She said the policy in question allows biologists to more accurately target areas where a species needs protection.

She said the circumstances for the Preble’s mouse are “very different in the two portions of the range.”

The new policy was enacted last year when the Bush administration decided that the Endangered Species Act allows the agency to protect only the most threatened part of an endangered species’ range, according to the environmental groups.

The environmentalists say the policy creates a greater risk of extinction for the Preble’s mouse and for other species whose ranges are partly protected, including the Gunnison’s prairie dog and the Queen Charlotte goshawk.

“Endangered species around the country could lose protections unless this illegal move by the Bush administration is stopped right away,” said Erin Robertson of the Center for Native Ecosystems in Denver. “The fate of the mouse is important, but there is much more at stake.”

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, as well as the state’s two Republican U.S. senators, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, have all praised the removal of protections for the mouse in Wyoming.

“Wyoming farmers and ranchers worked together to keep a viable population of the mouse without the need of federal protection,” Enzi said in July. “Because of their hard work Wyoming farmers and ranchers will not be held hostage by a mouse.”

The Preble’s mouse, which has a tail twice the length of its 3-inch body, lives in streamside habitats and the adjacent foothills of southeastern Wyoming and along part of Colorado’s Front Range. It can jump as far as three feet to escape predators.

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