Feds propose ESA listing for NM mouse

Jul 5, 2013

Comments are due Aug. 19 on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) recent proposal to list the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

FWS is proposing to designate approximately 14,561 acres of critical habitat along streams within Bernalillo, Colfax, Mora, Otero, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, and Socorro counties, in New Mexico; Las Animas, Archuleta, and La Plata counties in Colorado and Greenlee and Apache counties in Arizona.

The species is found in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, with 15 known populations in New Mexico. According to FWS, the mouse hibernates eight to nine months out of the year, and lives in dense, herbaceous riparian vegetation.

“As ranchers, we are all conservationists at heart,” said Rex Wilson, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA) president, Carrizozo. “However, spending time and money on an ESA listing while the New Mexico and other western states are literally burning up is ludicrous.

“There is no end in sight for either the ongoing drought or the devastating forest fires—made uncontrollable by policies that lead directly back to the Endangered Species Act— which are the biggest causes of habitat loss for all wildlife species across the West,” he continued. “What we need is rain, and control of that is out of our hands.”

Proponents of the ESA listing cite habitat loss as one of the main threats to the species, but don’t recognize the causes of that loss, he said. “Environmental activist groups like to blame everything on overgrazing, but that’s seldom the problem. Riparian areas are few and far between in New Mexico, attracting wildlife, recreational users, developers and more. Under the ESA, about the only thing that the FWS can effectively restrict is grazing, which is frustrating for those of us who are out on the ground, caring for the land on a daily basis.”

FWS proposed the listing on June 19, siting the jumping mouse as an endangered species.

“The threats to the jumping mouse are primarily the cumulative habitat loss and fragmentation across its range, compounded by their short lifespan and low birth rate,” according to an FWS press release.

“The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse is a species that hibernates about 8 or 9 months out of the year, longer than most mammals. Conversely, it is only active 3 or 4 months during the summer. Within this short time frame, it must breed, birth and raise young, and store up sufficient fat reserves to survive the next year’s hibernation period. In addition, jumping mice only live 3 years or less and have one small litter annually with 7 or less young, so the species has limited capacity for high population growth rates due to this low fecundity. As a result, if resources are not available in a single season, jumping mice populations would be greatly stressed,” the release continued.

FWS claims that the jumping mouse has exceptionally specialized habitat requirements such as tall (averaging at least 24 inches), dense riparian vegetation, only found when wetland vegetation achieves full growth potential associated with perennial flowing water. “This vegetation is an important resource need for the jumping mouse because it provides vital food sources (insects and seeds), as well as the structural material for building day nests that are used for shelter from predators,” according to FWS.

Anti-grazing supporters are championing the listing.

“Over-grazing destroys the streamside riparian and wet meadow habitat on which the meadow jumping mice depend,” the WildEarth Guardians (WEG) said in a statement. WEG claims that the recent proposal is in response to a “scientific petition” filed by the group in 2008. “The most important thing we can do to protect the jumping mouse and the ecosystem they call home is to reign in grazing on public lands,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WEG, in a statement.

The Federal Register notice, containing more information on the FWS proposal can be found at http:// www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-06-20/pdf/2013-14365. pdf. Comments are due Aug. 19, with requests for public hearings due on Aug. 5. NMCGA will be preparing and submitting comments, as well as drafting comments for its members to submit.

NMCGA has represented the beef industry in New Mexico and the West since 1914 and has members in all 33 of the state’s counties as well as some 18 other states. The association participates in venues necessary to protect beef producers and private property rights including litigation, state and federal legislation and regulatory affairs. For more information, or to join NMCGA online, please visit www.nmagriculture.org. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor