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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

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

September 7, 1999
Contacts: Sharon Rose 303-7917 x 415
Kathleen Linder 303-275-2370

PUBLIC MEETINGS IN FIVE COLORADO COUNTIES TO DISCUSS
PREBLE’S MEADOW JUMPING MOUSE AND LAND USE

Biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will host public meetings throughout five counties in Colorado that are home to the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, beginning on September 29 at 9 a.m. in the Phillip S. Miller County Building in Castle Rock.

In order to protect the threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and its habitat and to provide for economic expansion and growth in some riparian areas along the front range, plans are being developed by certain counties in Colorado. As part of the plan, known as a habitat conservation plan, an assessment of the environmental effects of the plan is necessary, identifying potential alternatives to the habitat conservation plan as well as environmental issues related to carrying out the plan. Development of this information is a public process and is known as scoping. The upcoming scoping meetings will provide the public an opportunity for input into this process. To the extent possible, the assessment of environmental impacts will be done at the same time the habitat conservation plan is being developed.

The meetings are expected to serve as a way to learn and share information about the process federal agencies are required to use, in this case, to identify different alternatives and environmental issues related to habitat conservation plans. There will also be a discussion on the presence of the Preble’s mouse in each county and its effects on the citizens and, in general, how a habitat conservation plan works for a community and the wildlife that lives there. During the meetings the public will provide the Service with recommendations as to specific issues that should be addressed when reviewing the impacts of habitat conservation plans on the communities as well as the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and its habitat.

"The need for habitat conservation plans arises out of a simple fact: endangered and threatened species live and roam wherever they find suitable habitat, without regard to who owns it. When the land was planned for something else, that’s when the need for innovative solutions emerges," said Ralph Morgenweck, director for the Service’s mountain-prairie region. "Habitat conservation planning eliminates communities having to choose between economic development or wildlife conservation," Morgenweck added.

At this time, public meetings are scheduled for:

Douglas County:      Phillips S. Miller Building
                               (September 29) County Building
                               Commissioners’ Hearing Room
                               100 3rd Street
                               Castle Rock, Colorado
                               9 a.m. - 11 a.m.

Jefferson County:     Jefferson County Courthouse
                               (September 30) 100 Jefferson County Parkway
                               Golden, Colorado
                               6 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Elbert County:         Elbert County Courthouse
                               (October 5) 215 Comanche Street
                               Kiowa, Colorado
                               7 p.m. - 9 p.m.

El Paso County:       Pikes Peak Community College
                               (October 13) Rampart Range Campus
                               11195 Highway 83
                               Colorado Springs, Colorado
                               6 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Boulder County:      Boulder County Courthouse
                               (October 18) County Commissioners Hearing Room
                               Third Floor
                               1325 Pearl Street
                               Boulder, Colorado
                               6 p.m.- 8 p.m.

Included in these presentations will be discussions of activities that may be affected when a mouse is present, ideas to conserve the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse while allowing land use activities to continue, and some background and history on the process counties and others undertake to develop a habitat conservation plan.

With the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse present in some riparian areas in several counties in Colorado and Wyoming, certain activities involving these areas must be reviewed to see if or how they may impact the Preble’s mouse. These activities may include the bulldozing of soil in or near a riparian area, changes in a stream, removal of willows along a stream, or other similar activities. In order to address these otherwise lawful activities that may be occurring at several locations in a county and could possibly kill or harm the mouse or its habitat, some counties are developing habitat conservation plans that will allow most of these activities to continue in a way that conserves the mouse and the riparian areas in which it lives.

In general, a habitat conservation plan works like this-- a developer who wants to alter a stream bed area for the placement of houses, or some similar situation, designs a habitat conservation plan and, at the same time, applies for what is known as an incidental take permit. In this case, the permit would allow the harming or killing of Preble’s meadow jumping mice as long as the activity will not appreciably reduce the chances of survival and recovery of the species in the wild. The "incidental take" can occur only during "the course of otherwise lawful activities." The plan is then submitted to the Service for review and to determine the impacts of the plan. Determining the impact of the plan is done using an environmental impact statement or an environmental assessment, depending on the significance of the impact.

As part of the process, the Fish and Wildlife Service has developed four alternatives involving habitat conservation plans. It is hoped that with public review, the Service will select the alternative which best suits the specific situation involving the local communities and the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and its habitat. Included in the alternatives that will be discussed at the upcoming public meetings are:

1. Each of the counties in Colorado with Preble’s meadow jumping mice would develop a habitat conservation plan and be issued an incidental take permit. The Service is proposing this alternative.

2. Multiple Individual habitat conservation plans and incidental take permits for individual landowners.

3. One single statewide habitat conservation plan and incidental take permit.

In each of the three alternatives, as science and conservation strategies evolve, changes could be made in the conservation strategies and activities under the habitat conservation plan.

4. No action alternative. No activities would be allowed that would harass, harm, or kill Preble’s meadow jumping mice. Activities that did not result in "take" of the mouse could continue. Proposed activities on non-federal land that may affect the mouse would require submitting an individual project-specific permit to the Service.

A tentative list of issues, concerns, and opportunities has been developed and will be discussed along with the potential effects of each alternative. As part of the process, a review of possible other alternatives, including a "no action" alternative is necessary. This process which involves the public is referred to as the National Environmental Policy Act and is required to ensure that a project does not significantly impact the environment.

When determining the environmental impacts of the proposed habitat conservation plan, physical, biological, social, and economic effects will be analyzed along with reasonable alternatives to the proposed plan.

Verbal or written comments may be submitted at the public scoping meeting or you can mail them to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn.: PMJM, 755 Parfet Street - Suite 361, Lakewood, CO 80215; phone (303)275-2370; fax (303)275-2371 and postmarked by November 17, 1999.

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 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance 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 wildlife agencies.


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