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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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

December 4, 1998

Pete Plage (303) 275-2370
Terry Sexson (303) 236-7917 x 429
Sharon Rose (303) 236-7917 x 415




The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed a special rule, known as a 4(d) rule after a section in the Endangered Species Act, as part of an overall conservation and recovery planning process for the threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.

Section 4(d) of the Act allows the Service to issue a special rule for a threatened species with provisions specifically tailored to the conservation of that species. Once these measures are developed, they replace the general prohibitions that normally apply to a listed species.

The Service believes the proposed rule would prohibit actions that threaten the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse while providing the flexibility to private landowners to engage in ongoing activities that do not jeopardize the species. The rule also is aimed at gaining the support of state and local governments, private landowners, and other interested parties for a lasting, cooperative approach to long-term conservation of the mouse.

"We are using the flexibility built into the Endangered Species Act and other federal and state conservation laws to ensure the future of both the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and people on the Front Range," Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt said.

"This is an excellent example of partnership in endangered species conservation," Babbitt said. "The State of Colorado and the Interior Department signed a Memorandum of Agreement in 1995 to conserve endangered species such as the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse with the goal of involving local communities in the conservation of the species."

The Service is working with the States of Colorado and Wyoming and local governments to develop conservation plans that can be put in place to help recover the mouse while still allowing some development activities.

"By involving and taking advantage of land use planning and other authorities and resources of state and local governments, we believe that we can more effectively provide for the long-term conservation of the Preble’s mouse rather than just relying on our own authorities and resources," said Ralph Morgenweck, the Service’s regional director for the Rocky Mountain region. "One of the purposes of this special rule is to begin allowing for this cooperation."

The Service listed the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse as a threatened species in May 1998. The 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 of riparian habitat throughout the Front Range.

In the proposed special rule, the Service identified important habitat areas for the mouse in Colorado and Wyoming. These areas would be further adjusted based on information gained from trapping surveys, habitat studies, or recovery goals for the mouse once they have been identified. These areas include: (1) mouse protection areas which include all areas where mice have been trapped since 1992 and reported to the Service, and (2) potential mouse protection areas which include areas that have great potential to support mice based on habitat conditions and other factors.

Under the special rule, the Service proposes to exempt certain activities from the standard prohibition of "take" ( the incidental killing, harming, or harassing of the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse) if these activities are conducted in accordance with certain requirements. The first of these exemptions would allow take outside of a mouse protection area or potential mouse protection area. The Service believes that the mouse protection areas and potential mouse protection areas include sufficient habitat to achieve recovery of the species. Incidental killing or harming of a mouse outside of these protection areas is not likely, and if it did occur, the Service believes it would not compromise recovery of the species.

The Service is also proposing to allow four types of existing activities to occur throughout the mouse’s range. The activities to be allowed under the proposed special rule include:

  1. Rodent control within 10 feet of or inside any structure. The species is generally not found in or around structures such as barns, houses, and other buildings. The Service believes that any mortalities caused by rodent control in these areas would be insignificant.
  2. Ongoing agricultural activities. Some grazing and agricultural practices that do not appreciably degrade riparian habitat appear to be compatible with the species’ conservation. In some places, mouse populations coexist with ongoing agricultural activities. Study of these places may provide valuable insight into habitat conditions required by the mouse and could reveal the specific types of grazing and farming that will help in its recovery.
  3. Maintaining and replacing existing landscaping and related structures and improvements,with no increase in impervious surfaces. Landscaping activities such as lawn mowing and gardening associated with residential or commercial development,golf courses, and parks may affect mouse habitat in some areas. However, the Service does not expect these activities to significantly affect mouse conservation and recovery efforts if allowed to continue with no increase in impervious surfaces .
  4. Existing uses of water associated with the exercise of perfected water rights under state law and interstate compacts and decrees. The Service encourages the water community to engage in conservation planning efforts to provide voluntarily water flows that might be needed to protect mouse habitat.

Lastly, state and local governments which elect to implement certain protection standards for the mouse will be allowed to approve new projects or actions that modify a cumulative total of up to 4 percent of the habitat within a mouse protection area. These actions may proceed once adequate mitigation has been identified and certain conditions have been met.

The Service published the proposed rule in today’s Federal Register. Comments on the proposed special rule should be mailed to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Leroy Carlson, Field Supervisor, Colorado Field Office, Ecological Services, P.O. Box 25486, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225-0207. Comments should be received by February 1, 1999.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife 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 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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