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Unique Streamside Species Imperiled by Grazing, Climate Change, Drought
Bryan Bird, 505.699.4719, email@example.com
Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at last protected the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse as ‘endangered’ under the Endangered Species Act in response to a petition by WildEarth Guardians. The Service also announced the proposed designation of over 14,000 acres of critical habitat would soon be finalized.
“The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse is uniquely adapted to streams and wetlands habitats seriously threatened by overgrazing, stream de-watering, wildfire and climate change,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director with WildEarth Guardians. “Today’s listing decision will give this rare and special species a fighting chance at survival.”
The meadow jumping mouse lives only within feet of perennial streams with enough lush, dense streamside vegetation to provide food and shelter. The jumping mouse has the longest known hibernation period of any animal: eight to nine months per year. This long hibernation period makes suitable habitat even more critical for the jumping mouse because they must eat enough food in the three to four months they are active to last the full year.
“The jumping mouse is the canary so to speak for stream health in New Mexico's watersheds.” Said Bryan Bird, WildEarth Guardians' wild places program director. “The listing is an alarm call that we need to treat our streams and rivers with more care in a time of climate volatility.”
Over-grazing destroys the streamside riparian and wet meadow habitat on which the meadow jumping mice depend. Native to Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, meadow jumping mice populations shrunk by at least 76% in the last 15 years and mice are often found only in areas actively protected from grazing.
“The most important thing we can do to protect the jumping mouse and the ecosystems they call home is to reign in grazing on public lands,” said Cotton. “We call on the Service to immediately finalize designation of critical habitat for the jumping mouse.”
The Service finalized protections for the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse as a result of a historic multi-species settlement agreement with Guardians reached in May 2011, which requires the Service to make listing and critical habitat determinations on 251 candidate species by the end of 2016. Listing species under the Endangered Species Act is a proven effective safety net: more than 99 percent of plants and animals listed persist today. The law is especially important as a bulwark against the current extinction crisis: plants and animals are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities. Scientists estimate that 227 species would have gone extinct if not for ESA listing.