TUCSON (CN) – Uncle Sam refuses to protect the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, a tiny desert rodent with big feet (1.2 inches) that help it swim and thrive in the Southwest’s rare streamside ecosystems, environmentalists claim in Federal Court. WildEarth Guardians says the mouse is an “indicator species” whose poor health reflects the dire condition of streamside habitats across the region.
Confined to just five mountain ranges in Arizona and New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley, the mouse, which can jump up to 3 feet, “requires streamside areas with permanent water sources and tall and dense sedges, grasses, and forbs,” according to the complaint.
In a region with few riparian areas left, “domestic livestock grazing, water use and management, highway reconstruction, development, beaver removal, and recreation” have caused a collapse in jumping mouse numbers, WildEarth Guardians says. But federal officials have refused to give it endangered status.
“The Jumping Mouse is now known to occur at only seven locations in Arizona and nine locations in New Mexico. One of the New Mexico locations extends into southern Colorado. Of these 16 locations, eight measure only a few acres in size and are likely contain very small populations,” the complaint states.
“Based on current surveys, the Jumping Mouse has disappeared from approximately 85 percent of the sites where it historically occurred. The ‘drastic decline’ in Jumping Mouse numbers and range has threatened the species’ survival.”
WildEarth Guardians challenges Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s 2009 finding that endangered status for the jumping mouse was “warranted, but precluded, by higher priority listing actions.”
The group seeks “an injunctive order requiring the Secretary to withdraw his unlawful ‘warranted, but precluded’ finding and issue a new finding by a date certain.”
WildEarth Guardians is represented by Melissa Hailey of Denver.