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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

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

May 12, 1998

Pete Plage (CO) 303-275-2370
Mary Jennings (WY) 307-772-2374, x 32
Sharon Rose (CO) 303-236-7917, x 415

 

PREBLE'S MOUSE WILL BE LISTED AS THREATENED SPECIES,
BUT LANDOWNERS WILL RETAIN ACTIVITY FLEXIBILITY

The Preble's meadow jumping mouse will be included as a threatened species under the Federal Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. The final rule is expected to appear in the Federal Register on May 14, 1998. The Service proposed a year ago that the mouse be listed as an endangered species, but biologists said surveys since then indicate that the population is at less risk than previously believed.

Service biologists are also working with Colorado and Wyoming to develop interim regulations, provided for under Section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act, that will allow certain activities to continue within the mouse's range. The interim controls would be in place until a more comprehensive Habitat Conservation Plan, also under development, is completed. A proposed interim rule will be published in the Federal Register and will be available for public comment for 30 days.

"Three years ago, I was happy to join Governor Romer in signing an agreement that laid the foundation for a cooperative approach to conservation and management of species at risk in Colorado," said Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. "We're taking another step on that road today and not just because this mouse alone will benefit. We do it because people and the wide variety of creatures share the same needs for a healthy quality of life. When that same quality of life begins to decline, we all pay a price. By acting today, we are ahead of the game."

While habitat loss and degradation caused by agricultural, residential, commercial and industrial development are believed to be major factors affecting the mouse, the Interior Secretary is nonetheless granted broad regulatory discretion under the Endangered Species Act to fashion additional flexibility in managing a species' recovery while accommodating local conditions. In general, the regulations will allow continuation of existing land uses along streams within designated protection areas as long as some restrictions are observed. Existing grazing practices on private land would also be allowed.

"Colorado has been experiencing tremendous growth all along the Front Range--prime habitat for this mouse species," said Governor Romer. "We have been working, through our

Smart Growth Initiative, to provide the tools we need to preserve critical habitat and open space while maintaining our strong economy. This mouse needs to be protected and we can find ways to protect its range if we work together and develop rational strategies. The initiatives that the Interior Secretary is announcing today will help us achieve these goals."

Congress created Habitat Conservation Plans, designed to protect a species while allowing economic development, in 1982, when it became apparent that the Endangered Species Act lacked such a mechanism. An HCP allows the Service to permit "taking" of an endangered or threatened species incidental to otherwise lawful activities, when the taking is mitigated by conservation measures. The plans are written by those most directly affected by the property in question and not by the Service. There are 225 approved HCPs in effect today throughout the United States, with another 200 on the drawing board.

Members of the Preble's meadow jumping mouse working group, which includes members representing the State, local landowners and private organizations, are working with the Service to develop conservation efforts on both public and private lands to address threats and help in recovery of the mouse.

Records show that the Preble's meadow jumping mouse range once included Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Elbert, Jefferson, Larimer and Weld counties in Colorado and Albany, Laramie, Platte, Goshen and Converse counties in Wyoming. They are believed to occur today in only Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, and Weld counties in Colorado and Albany and Laramie counties in Wyoming.

Recent trapping efforts have found mouse populations in some areas (Douglas, El Paso and Elbert counties in Colorado) where few or no historical records exist. More than 120 surveys conducted at potential development sites along Colorado’s front range with habitat for Preble's mouse were conducted in 1997. Of those, the mouse was found in only 17 sites. But when researchers targeted only sites with ideal habitat, the mouse was found in 7 of the 10 sites. Recent trappings indicate that while the overall population is at a better level than previously believed, the range of the mouse has decreased, especially adjacent to or east of the Interstate 25 urban corridor.

Requests for information should be made to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 755 Parfet Street, Suite 361, Lakewood, CO 80215 (303-275-2370). Public comment may also be sent to the same address.  


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