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 November 1, 1997

Preble’s jumping mouse excuse to stop developers

Designation as endangered a questionable exercise

On Oct. 1st, Colorado Rep. David Skaggs added $400,000 to a bill to protect the Preble˜s meadow jumping mouse. In its Oct. 9 edition, The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported that "two separate populations of the Preble˜s meadow jumping mouse were discovered on the Colorado Division of Wildlife˜s Lower Cherokee Park and Lone Pine state wildlife areas west of Livermore."
How might these two incidents affect citizens of Albany and Laramie counties in Wyoming and Boulder, Larimer, and Weld counties in Colorado?
Actually, an announcement occurred on March 25th that makes the above events consequential. On that date, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to add the Preble˜s meadow jumping mouse to the list of federal endangered species. Once named as endangered or threatened, a recovery plan for the mouse must be implemented to improve its habitat.
This mammal, a subspecies of the meadow jumping mouse, is native only to southeastern Wyoming and eastern Colorado. It is 8 to 9 inches long, with a long tail accounting for 60 percent of its total length. It has coarse fur with a dark back, paler sides tending toward yellowish brown and a white belly. Its hind feet are long and adapted for jumping.
Unfortunately, this mouse is easily confused with the western jumping mouse, which is a little larger and is usually found at higher elevations. The only sure way that scientists verify the species of these mice is through post-mortem skull measurements.
The Wildlife Service states: "Specific activities such as overgrazing, water depletions, stream channelization, sand and gravel mining, and development of recreational trails have É modified or destroyed riparian habitat and wet meadows, essential to the existence of Preble˜s meadow jumping mouse and several other species dependent on this kind of habitat."
Do you hear development issues coming up?
Consider the June 9, 1997 Sierra Club Colorado Chapter˜s Conservation Committee Minutes and Reports. "Rocky Flats Chair Eugene DeMayo testified for the [Sierra Club] Chapter at a USFWS public meeting in favor of listing the Preble˜s Meadow Jumping Mouse as Threatened or Endangered. Given USFWS˜s recent refusals to list species they recognize are in trouble but claim they have no money to protect, I urge our activists not to depend on the Preble˜s Mouse being listed and then holding up a lot of the suburban development we want to see prevented, such as the Jefferson Center near Rocky Flats. There is a good chance the mouse will not be listed, so we need to fight those developments on all fronts and not rely on the Endangered Species Act alone."
Another individual at the same USFWS hearing noted that the mouse is a subspecies whose historical viability is not known, so there is no clear indication that the present population is any smaller than it has ever been. His testimony concluded by stating: "The presence or loss of this species will have no effect on the ecology of the region. The coyote, hawk, or bull snake who eats one of these mice cannot distinguish it from any other jumping meadow mouse, deer mouse, or kangaroo rat."
Because the Larimer County sightings were the first in 20 years, the Preble˜s mouse was hopefully verified by necroscopies — i.e., the animal must be dead to have its subspecies confirmed.
It would truly be reprehensible to spend $400,000 on protecting a mouse subspecies which may not even exist. Perhaps, the Senate can remove this provision from legislation it passes.
More importantly, are we now on the verge of using the Endangered Species Act to halt development in Wyoming and Colorado? Please, let us retain our common sense even as we consider important philosophical issues such as species protection.Former Fort Collins mayor John Knezovich is a certified public accountant.

Designation as endangered a questionable exercise

On Oct. 1st, Colorado Rep. David Skaggs added $400,000 to a bill to protect the Preble˜s meadow jumping mouse. In its Oct. 9 edition, The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported that "two separate populations of the Preble˜s meadow jumping mouse were discovered on the Colorado Division of Wildlife˜s Lower Cherokee Park and Lone Pine state wildlife areas west of Livermore."
How might these two incidents affect citizens of Albany and Laramie counties in Wyoming and Boulder, Larimer, and Weld counties in Colorado?
Actually, an announcement occurred on March 25th that makes the above events consequential.…

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