|The Mountain-Prairie Region|
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
February 24, 2004
Contacts: Pete Plage (CO) 303-236-4750
Proposed Extension of Special Rule for
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed a permanent extension of an amended special rule for the threatened Preble's meadow jumping mouse. This rule defines the conditions under which take of this species may occur without violating the Endangered Species Act.
This proposed action would make permanent an amended special rule that allows take to occur as the result of certain rodent control, agricultural operations, landscape maintenance, noxious weed control, ditch maintenance, and other specified activities.
The Endangered Species Act prohibits "take" defined as killing, harming, harassing, trapping, or wounding of a listed species or destruction of its habitat. However, section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act allows the Service to establish a special rule defining the conditions under which unintentional take of a threatened species is exempted.
Under the proposal, the amended special rule will be extended permanently. Without the extension, the amended special rule will expire on May 22, 2004. The Service will continue to work with State and local governments, landowners, and others to foster conservation of the Preble's, a species found only in Colorado and Wyoming.
The following activities are exempted from general take provisions provided that they are conducted in accordance with the requirements specified in the special rule:
Rodent control within 10 feet of or inside 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 or poisoning near these structures would be insignificant.
Ongoing agricultural activities, provided that impacts and encroachment upon Preble’s habitat do no increase. 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, replacement and improvement of existing landscaping and related structures. 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 the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse currently exists. Many existing water use activities appear to be compatible with maintenance of Preble's populations. In some locations, this species exists only because of human manipulation of water flows. However, take associated with new water development is not exempted.
Noxious weed control activities when conducted in accordance with State laws that govern noxious weed control and with Federal law governing pesticide labeling. This amendment will alleviate possible conflicts the Preble's listing may pose with respect to 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 the desirable natural vegetation on which Preble's depends for survival.
Ongoing ditch maintenance activities that result in the annual loss of no more than one-quarter of a mile of riparian shrub habitat within any one linear mile of ditch, and that conform to 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 ensure 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.
For several years, the Service has been working with the States of Colorado and Wyoming and private landowners to develop Habitat Conservation Plans, or HCPs, for the mouse. These HCPs are formal agreements that permit the 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 proposed extension of the special rule will not alter these efforts.
"Our goal is to work in partnership with the citizens of Colorado and Wyoming to come up with long-term conservation plans 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."
Except for the exemptions outlined in the special rule, in an HCP permit, or under other authorization from the Service, it will be illegal for any person to kill, harm, or otherwise take any Preble's meadow jumping mouse.
The Preble's meadow jumping mouse is a subspecies of the meadow jumping mouse. It is 8 to 9 inches long, and 60 percent of its length is accounted for by its tail. It has coarse fur with a dark back, pale 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 of riparian habitat throughout the Front Range. The Service listed the species as threatened in May 1998.
The Service published the proposal to extend the special rule in todays Federal Register. Comments on the proposal should be mailed to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Susan Linner, Field Supervisor, Colorado Field Office, Ecological Services,755 Parfet Street, Room 361, Lakewood, Colorado 80215. Comments should be received by March 25, 2004.
For more information about the Preble's meadow jumping mouse and the special rule, please visit the Service's web site at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/preble. Click on Special Rule and Amendments.
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 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 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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