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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

 

Date: October 1, 2002

Contacts: Pete Plage (CO) 303-236-4750
Mary Jennings (WY) 307-772-2374 x32
Mike Long (WY) 307-772-2374 x 34
Diane Katzenberger (303) 236-7917 ext 408

Special Rule Announced for
Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued an amendment to a special rule that defines the conditions under which take of the threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse resulting from certain noxious weed control an ditch maintenance activities may occur without violating the Endangered Species Act. The amendment adds to the existing special rule that provides exemptions for take resulting from rodent control, agricultural operations, landscape maintenance and other activities.

The amendment to the special rule will take effect immediately and remain in effect for the remaining duration of the special rule, which was implemented for a 36-month period and is scheduled to expire on May 22, 2004. During this period, the Service will continue to work with State and local governments, landowners and others to foster conservation of the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, which is a species found only in Colorado and Wyoming.

At the end of the 36 months, the Service will review and evaluate all relevant information to determine if extension of the rule may be warranted.

"Our goal is to work in partnership with the citizens of Colorado and Wyoming to come up with long-term conservation planes that will meet the needs of both the species and landowners," said Ralph Morgenweck, the Service’s regional director for the Mountain-Prairie Region. "To succeed, we will need the support of landowners who own or control much of the land needed to conserve the mouse."

The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, a subspecies of the meadow jumping mouse, is 8 to 9 inches in length with a tail that accounts for 60 percent of its measurement. It has coarse fur with a dark back, paler sides tending toward yellowish brown and a white belly. Its hind feet are

long and adapted for jumping small distances. The range of the species corresponds largely to the rapidly developing Front Range Urban Corridor running from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Cheyenne, Wyoming. The decline of the species is indicative of the decline or riparian habitat throughout the Front Range. The Service listed the species as threatened in May 1998.

The Endangered Species Act prohibits "take" of a listed species, which is defined as killing, harming, harassing, trapping or wounding. However, Section 4(d) of the Act allows the Service to prepare a special rule that defines the conditions under which take of a threatened species would be exempted.

The amendments add two types of activities to those already exempted from the general take provision under certain conditions:

Noxious weed control activities, when conducted in accordance with State laws regarding control of noxious weeds and with Federal law relating to pesticide labeling. This amendment will alleviate possible conflicts due to the Preble’s listing with statutory requirements regarding noxious weed control in the States of Colorado and Wyoming. The Service believes this exemption will help conserve and recover Preble’s because noxious weeds are displacing desirable natural vegetation on which Preble’s depends for survival.

Ongoing ditch maintenance activities that result in the annual loss of no more than 1/4 mile of riparian shrub habitat within any 1 linear mile of ditch, and that are conducted in conformance with certain Best Management Practices as defined in the amendments. The intent is to exempt normal and customary ditch maintenance activities that result in only temporary or limited disturbance of habitat and only minimal take of Preble’s. This exemption is designed to provide relief to those who must maintain active ditches, and to assure that currently existing Preble’s habitat along ditches remains functionally intact and viable. It applies only to man-made ditches and is not intended to address alteration of habitat along naturally-occurring streams and watercourses.

The special rule temporarily exempts the following activities from the general take provisions provided they are conducted in accordance with the rule’s requirements:

Rodent control within 10 feet of or inside of any structure. Since the Preble’s is not generally found in structures such as barns, houses, or other buildings, Preble’s mortality associated with trapping near these structures would be insignificant.

Ongoing agricultural activities are exempted provided there is no increase of impacts or further encroachment upon Preble’s habitat. Situations where Preble’s

populations coexist with ongoing agriculture may provide valuable insight into habitat conditions and specific types of grazing and farming practices that are compatible with the species.

Maintenance and replacement of existing landscaping and related structures and improvements. Some landscaping activities, such as lawn mowing and gardening associated with residential or commercial development, golf courses, and parks may disrupt Preble’s habitat in certain areas. However, because minimal take is associated with these activities, they are not expected to adversely affect Preble’s conservation and recovery efforts.

Existing uses of water associated with the exercise of perfected water rights. Augmentation plans, replacement plans, and exchanges of water that have been recognized by decree or certificate of appropriation will be exempt from take prohibitions. Continued uses of water will generally maintain conditions under which Preble’s currently exist. Many existing water use activities appear to be compatible with maintenance of Preble’s populations. In some locations, Preble’s exist only because of human manipulation of water flows. The relationship of water use and maintenance of Preble’s habitat is complex and will be examined during the special rule time period. However, take associated with new water development is not exempted.

For several years, the Service has been working with the states of Colorado and Wyoming and private landowners to develop Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs), formal agreements that permit take of individual endangered or threatened species incidental to otherwise lawful activities, when the effects of the taking are mitigated and minimized by agreed-upon conservation measures. The special rule will not alter these efforts; those still underway will continue during the duration of the special rule and amendments.

Except for the exemptions outlined in the special rule, or under a HCP permit or biological opinion from the Service, it will be illegal for any person to kill, harm, or otherwise take any Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.

The Service published the amendments to the special rule in today’s Federal Register.

For more information about the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and this special rule, please visit the Service’s web site at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/preble

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov

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