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Conservation Group Asks Forest Service to Protect Mouse from Livestock Grazing
Santa Fe-WildEarth Guardians demanded in a letter sent today to the U.S. Forest Service in Albuquerque that it take immediate steps to prevent the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse's extinction and promote its recovery. Cattle grazing, climate change, drought, and beaver removal are the leading threats to the native mouse. Given the recent designation of the jumping mouse as a formal candidate for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection, WildEarth is calling on the Forest Service to review all of its current and future plans for potential impacts, particularly cattle grazing permits.
"This rare mouse is barely hanging on. The Forest Service needs to step up and protect the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse from cattle grazing on our public lands," stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. "Right now, the Forest Service is allowing cattle to denude the streamside areas that the jumping mouse requires," continued Rosmarino.
In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designated the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse as a candidate for listing under the ESA. FWS described threats as including habitat destruction due to grazing pressure, water use and management, highway reconstruction, development, and recreation. The only place on Forest Service lands where this mouse persists is within livestock exclosures or in beaver wetlands. FWS considers the mouse as facing high-magnitude, imminent threats to its survival and placed it in the highest priority category for ESA protection.
According to the WildEarth letter, grazing must be adjusted on the Carson, Santa Fe, and Lincoln National Forests, in order to prevent the jumping mouse's further decline. Grasses, the jumping mouse's principal food source and hiding cover, are currently managed for a target height 8 times shorter than the mouse needs: plants average 33 inches tall where jumping mice have been found, while the Forest Service often allows cattle to graze plants down to a mere 4 inches. Other actions that WildEarth urged the Forest Service to limit in mouse habitat include off-road vehicle use and travel management plans.
According to Rosmarino, "The Forest Service is allowing rich streamside habitats to be grazed to the bone, destroying these arteries of life. This is pushing the jumping mouse to the brink of extinction. It is also harming the majority of western wildlife, as 75% of the region's wildlife depend on streamside areas to survive."
Climate change also threatens the mouse, given predictions of long droughts and decreased stream flows in the southwest. In WildEarth's view, given the obstacles to mouse survival that climate change factors present, other threats - such as cattle grazing and off-road vehicles - must be immediately reined in.
While WildEarth Guardians advocates ESA protection for the jumping mouse, the group's letter to the Forest Service outlines important steps to be taken immediately to prevent the mouse's extinction. The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse has been extirpated from 74% of historical locations surveyed where it once occurred. From 2000-2006 only 11 locations have been confirmed as containing mice: 2 in Arizona and 9 in New Mexico. A population in southeastern Colorado is an extension of a population in northeastern New Mexico that is known to exist.
Earlier this month, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish released a draft recovery plan for the mouse (and the imperiled Arizona montane vole). The plan specifies the need to protect jumping mouse habitat, including the use of fencing to exclude cattle from mouse habitat. In addition, the state plan discusses how beaver can create suitable jumping mouse habitat, and how beaver removal poses a threat to this rare mouse. WildEarth Guardians encourages state involvement in conservation efforts on the mouse, but maintains that federal protection is required given the mouse's extreme imperilment and to ensure habitat protection and funding for mouse recovery.
WildEarth Guardians asked the Forest Service to reply to their letter by March 31, 2008.
Contact: Nicole Rosmarino PhD, Wildlife Program Director, WildEarth Guardians, 505-988-9126 x1156, firstname.lastname@example.org
As of January 28, 2008 WildEarth Guardians, Sinapu, and the Sagebrush Sea Campaign have joined forces to become WildEarth Guardians. With offices in Boulder, Denver, Phoenix, and Santa Fe, WildEarth Guardians protects and restores wildlife, wild places, and wild rivers in the American West.