Property rights, ag groups, others petition to delist Preble’s mouse
March 30, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With a formal delisting petition submitted on March 30, Pacific Legal Foundation is calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to remove the Preble's meadow jumping mouse from Endangered Species Act coverage.
The petition is based on new scientific findings confirming that the mouse, far from being "threatened," is not meaningfully different from other populations of jumping mice with healthy populations in a number of parts of North America.
PLF submitted the petition on behalf of a broad coalition of agriculture, business, and sound science advocates, including: wildlife biologist Rob Roy Ramey II; Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability; Wyoming Stock Growers Association; Colorado Cattlemen's Association; Colorado Association of Home Builders; and Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs. PLF represents these petitioners free of charge, as with all of its clients.
The Preble's mouse is a small rodent that was listed as a "threatened" subspecies in 1998, based on a 1950s study and an unpublished 1997 review. However, those analyses focused narrowly on mouse populations in the Eastern Front Range regions of Colorado and Wyoming. More recent studies have moved beyond that limited approach. In particular, in 2013 biologists Jason L. Malaney and Joseph A. Cook of the University of New Mexico produced a comprehensive analysis of North American jumping mice populations. They concluded that the Preble's mouse is "part of a single lineage that is ecologically indistinct and extends to the far north."
The latest and best data show that the Preble's mouse is actually a relatively common animal, and doesn't belong on the Endangered Species Act list," said PLF Senior Attorney Damien Schiff. "Its mistaken listing was based on a myopic focus on limited geographical regions, rather than an examination of jumping mice populations throughout the continent. Our delisting petition is about ensuring that environmental regulations are based on sound science, and this means regulators must take a geographically comprehensive look at the animals they're reviewing, and not simply confine their studies to selected zip codes.
"The latest and best data vindicate the views of renowned wildlife biologist Dr. Rob Ramey, along with others, who for years have courageously objected to the politicized science that formed the basis of the mouse's listing," Schiff continued. "Moreover, the data demonstrate that the onerous regulatory burdens that the Preble's mouse listing triggered — imposing restrictions on home building, ranching, and other productive activities in Colorado and Wyoming — have been unjustified. Indeed, the federal government itself acknowledges that the Preble's mouse listing imposes a 20-year cost to the economy of more than $200 million, and that is likely a lowball figure."
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"Delisting is also needed for the cause of credible environmental protection," said Schiff. "It is now clear that flawed listings like this one ultimately harm wildlife as much as property owners, by diverting and wasting scarce environmental resources. Indeed, as the University of New Mexico study showed, there are several unprotected populations of North American jumping mice that are in much greater need of regulatory safeguards than the Preble's mouse."
"Eleven years ago, Wyoming Stock Growers Association cited taxonomic work done by Dr. Rob Roy Ramey, as well as other independent scientific analysis, in calling for the delisting of the Preble's mouse," said Jim Magagna, Executive Vice President, Wyoming Stock Growers Association. "Further research has affirmed the validity of that science. The delisting of the Preble's mouse is long overdue."
"This petition is based on completely independent research that shows that a supposedly threatened subspecies of jumping mice is neither genetically unique, nor restricted in range at all," said Rob Roy Ramey. "It turns out that the Preble's meadow jumping mouse subspecies is part of the largest and most widespread genetic lineages of jumping mice and extends from Colorado all the way into western Alaska.
"Wasting vast amounts of money and administrative effort on non-endangered populations of common species, shortchanges bona fide full species that are truly endangered," Ramey continued. "If we are ever going to make the ESA more effective and less burdensome, the federal agencies in charge of it need to do a better job at prioritizing efforts and require a businesslike accountability in decision-making."
The ESA requires regulators to respond to a delisting petition within 90 days, with a determination of whether the petition "presents substantial scientific or commercial information" indicating that delisting "may be warranted." Failure to respond would trigger the possibility of litigation.
The petition to delist the Preble's meadow jumping mouse under the Endangered Species Act may be accessed at PLF's website: http://www.pacificlegal.org. A PLF Courting Liberty podcast about the petition will be available on Wednesday, April 5.