[Federal Register: February 2, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 21)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 5404-5411]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AU12

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
on a Petition To Delist the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse (Zapus 
hudsonius preblei) and Proposed Delisting of the Preble's Meadow 
Jumping Mouse

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding and proposed rule.


[[Page 5405]]

SUMMARY: We the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announce a 12-
month finding on a petition to delist the Preble's meadow jumping mouse 
(Preble's) (Zapus hudsonius preblei) under the Endangered Species Act 
(Act) of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). After reviewing the 
best scientific and commercial information available, we find that the 
petitioned action is warranted and propose to delist or remove Preble's 
from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. We propose this 
action based on a review of all available data, which indicate that 
Preble's is not a discrete taxonomic entity, does not meet the 
definition of a subspecies, and was listed in error. Before this 
proposed action is finalized, the Service will conduct a status review 
and evaluate threats to the combined Z. h. campestris entity in all or 
a significant portion of its range. We will also analyze whether the 
Preble's portion of Z. h. campestris qualifies as a Distinct Population 
Segment in need of protection. We seek comments from the public 
regarding this proposal.

DATES: We will consider comments on this notice and proposed rule 
received until the close of business on May 3, 2005. Requests for 
public hearings must be received by us on or before March 21, 2005.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and 
materials concerning this notice and proposal by one of several 
    1. You may submit written comments to Field Supervisor, Colorado 
Field Office, Ecological Services, 755 Parfet Street, Suite 361, 
Lakewood, Colorado 80215.
    2. You may hand-deliver comments to our Colorado Field Office at 
the above address or send via facsimile (fax: (303) 275-2371).
    3. You may send comments via electronic mail (e-mail) to 
FW6_PMJM@fws.gov. See the Public Comments Solicited section below for file 

format and other information about electronic filing.
    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in the preparation of this 12-month finding and 
proposed rule, will be available for inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours, at the above address.
    To request a public hearing, submit a request in writing to the 
Colorado Field Office at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Linner, Field Supervisor, at the 
above address or telephone 303-275-2370.



    The Preble's was listed as threatened on May 13, 1998 (63 FR 
26517). At the time of listing, the primary threat to Preble's was 
habitat loss and degradation caused by agricultural, residential, 
commercial, and industrial development. On December 23, 2003, we 
received two petitions, from Coloradans for Water Conservation and 
Development and the State of Wyoming's Office of the Governor, to 
remove Preble's from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered 
Wildlife and Plants pursuant to the Act. Both petitions maintain 
Preble's should be delisted based on ``data error'' (i.e., subsequent 
investigations show that the best scientific or commercial data 
available when the species was listed, or the interpretation of such 
data, were in error) and ``taxonomic revision'' (i.e., Preble's is not 
a valid subspecies). As explained in our 1996 Petition Management 
Guidance (Service 1996), subsequent petitions are treated separately 
only when they are greater in scope than, or broaden the area of review 
of, the first petition. In this case, as both petitions were almost 
identical, the State of Wyoming's petition was treated as a comment on 
the first petition received.
    On March 31, 2004, we published a 90-day finding in the Federal 
Register that the petition presented substantial information to 
indicate the petitioned action may be warranted (69 FR 16944). Section 
4(b)(3)(B) of the Act requires that within 12 months after receiving a 
petition to revise the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and 
Plants that contains substantial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted, the Secretary shall make one of the 
following findings--(a) The petitioned action is not warranted; (b) the 
petitioned action is warranted; or (c) the petitioned action is 
warranted but precluded by pending proposals. Such 12-month findings 
are to be published promptly in the Federal Register. In accordance 
with section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act, we have now completed a review of 
the best available scientific and commercial information on the species 
and have reached a determination that the petitioned action is 
warranted. When the proposed action is warranted, it should be 
accompanied by, or promptly followed by, a proposed rule to implement 
the warranted action. In this case, we have combined the 12-month 
finding and the proposed delisting rule into a single document.

General Species Information

    Meadow jumping mice (Zapus hudsonius) are small rodents with long 
tails, large hind feet, and long hind legs. The tail is bicolored, 
lightly-furred, and typically twice as long as the body. Meadow jumping 
mice have a distinct, dark, broad stripe on their backs that runs from 
head to tail and is bordered on either side by gray to orange-brown 
fur. The underside fur is white and very fine in texture. Total length 
of an adult meadow jumping mouse is approximately 180 to 250 
millimeters (mm) (7 to 10 inches (in)), with the tail comprising 108 to 
155 mm (4 to 6 in) of that length (Krutzsch 1954, Fitzgerald et al. 
    Across its range, meadow jumping mice typically occur in moist 
habitats, including low undergrowth consisting of grasses, forbs, or 
both, in open wet meadows and riparian corridors, or where tall shrubs 
and low trees provide adequate cover (Krutzsch 1954, Quimby 1951, 
Armstrong 1972). Meadow jumping mice prefer lowlands with medium to 
high moisture over drier uplands. Fitzgerald et al. (1994) described 
meadow jumping mice as most common in wooded areas. Because adequate 
herbaceous or grassy ground cover is essential for the species, meadow 
jumping mice in the northern Great Plains are restricted primarily to 
riparian habitats (Jones et al. 1983).
    Meadow jumping mice are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular, but 
also may be active during the day, when they have been seen moving 
around or sitting under a shrub (Shenk 1998). These mice are nomadic, 
and may roam up to 1 kilometer (km) (0.6 mile (mi)) in search of moist 
habitat. Meadow jumping mice usually move in hops of about 3 to 15 
centimeters (cm) (1 to 6 in), but are capable of taking a few long 
jumps of 60 to 90 cm (2 to 3 feet). Meadow jumping mice, including 
Preble's, are true hibernators. Preble's usually enter hibernation in 
September or October and emerge the following May, after a potential 
hibernation period of 7 or 8 months. Adult Preble's reach weights that 
enable them to enter hibernation as early as the third week in August, 
whereas young of the year typically enter hibernation in September and 
October (Meaney et al. 2003).
    Additional species information is available in the May 13, 1998, 
final rule to list the Preble's as a threatened species (63 FR 26517) 
and the June 23, 2003, final rule to designate critical habitat for the 
Preble's (68 FR 37275).

[[Page 5406]]


    The Preble's is a member of the family Dipodidae (jumping mice) 
(Holden 1992), which contains four extant genera. Two of these, Zapus 
and Napaeozapus, are found in North America (Hall 1981, Wilson and Ruff 
    In his 1899 study of North American jumping mice, Edward A. Preble 
concluded there were 10 species in the Zapus genus. According to 
Preble, meadow jumping mice (Z. hudsonius) included five subspecies. 
Preble classified all specimens of meadow jumping mice from the States 
of North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, 
and Missouri as Z. h. campestris.
    Krutzsch (1954) revised the taxonomy of the genus after studying 
morphological characteristics of 3,600 specimens of Zapus. This 
revision recognized only 3 distinct species of jumping mice; the meadow 
jumping mouse, the western jumping mouse (Z. princeps), and the Pacific 
jumping mouse (Z. trinotatus), comprised of 11, 11, and 4 subspecies, 
respectively. Krutzsch relegated the majority of species previously 
recognized by Preble (1899) to subspecific status. Krutzsch based his 
reduction in the number of distinct species on Mayr's (1942) species 
concept, which defined species as actual or potential interbreeding 
individuals or populations that are reproductively isolated from other 
such groups. Mayr described a subspecies as a geographically localized 
subdivision of the species, which differs genetically and taxonomically 
(as illustrated by significant morphological characteristics) from 
other subdivisions of the species.
    Krutzsch retained the name Z. h. campestris, but restricted its use 
to specimens from the Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountains of 
northeastern Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, and adjacent 
southeastern Montana. Individuals from North Dakota, and northwestern, 
central, and eastern South Dakota were classified as the subspecies Z. 
h. intermedius. Krutzsch described and named Z. h. preblei (Preble's) 
as separate from Z. h. campestris (Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse) 
based on 11 specimens (4 adult and 7 non-adult). Krutzsch stated that 
although ``the specimens of Z. h. preblei are few, the differences 
between this and neighboring named kinds is considerable.'' Krutzsch 
also commented on the presence of physical habitat barriers and lack of 
known intergradation between Preble's, known only from eastern Colorado 
and southeastern Wyoming, and other identified subspecies of the meadow 
jumping mouse ranging to the east and north. Among recognized 
subspecies, Krutzsch found that Preble's most closely resembled the 
Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse from northeastern Wyoming, but 
summarized differences in coloration and skull characteristics. 
Preble's was recognized as one of twelve subspecies of meadow jumping 
mouse by Hafner et al. (1981).
    Jones (1981) examined the morphology of 9,900 Zapus specimens from 
across North America. Jones concluded that the Pacific jumping mouse 
was not a valid taxon and suggested reducing the number of species in 
the genus to two (the western jumping mouse and the meadow jumping 
mouse). At the subspecific level, Jones concluded that there was ``no 
evidence of any population of Zapus hudsonius being sufficiently 
isolated or distinct to warrant subspecific status'' and ``No named 
subspecies is geographically restricted by a barrier, with the possible 
exception of Z. h. preblei.'' Jones made the statements above based on 
the subspecies concept proposed by Whitaker (1970) which said--(1) 
Subspecies must be divided by primary isolating mechanisms that stop or 
significantly reduce gene flow; (2) in the absence of primary isolating 
mechanisms, subspecies would still be capable of interbreeding; and (3) 
the existence of primary isolating mechanisms can be inferred from the 
genetic distinctness of subspecies, as evidenced by unique 
characteristics. The conclusions reached by Jones have not been 
incorporated into the formal taxonomy of the genus. These conclusions 
were never published in a peer-reviewed journal; therefore, the 
scientific community never formally assessed the validity of this work.
    In a report to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Riggs et al. 
(1997) analyzed mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid (mtDNA) from tissue 
samples of meadow jumping mice and western jumping mice from Colorado 
and Wyoming and concluded that Preble's mice form a homogenous group 
recognizably distinct from nearby populations of meadow jumping mice 
and adjacent species of the genus. Hafner (1997) reviewed the Riggs 
study, inspected Riggs' original sequence data, and agreed that 
Preble's form a relatively homogenous group compared to neighboring 
subspecies. Ramey et al. (2004) reviewed the Riggs study, and 
criticized the methodology for not rigorously testing whether Preble's 
formed a monophyletic group (i.e., a grouping of evolutionary lineages 
that includes a common ancestor and all descendent lineages) and for 
not providing statistical tests to support their conclusions.
    Ramey et al. (2004) (a revision of Ramey et al. 2003 considered in 
the 90-day finding) examined four lines of evidence to test the 
taxonomic validity of the Preble's as described by Krutzsch (1954). 
First, they performed a phylogenetic and population genetic analysis of 
mtDNA sequence data, primarily from museum specimens of four subspecies 
of meadow jumping mouse, including Preble's (58 specimens), the Bear 
Lodge meadow jumping mouse (33 specimens), Zapus hudsonius luteus (32 
specimens), and Z. h. pallidus (35 specimens). Ramey et al. used Z. 
princeps princeps (7 specimens), Z. p. idahoensis (3 specimens), and Z. 
p. utahensis (7 specimens) as the outgroup for the phylogenetic 
analysis. An outgroup is an organism from a distantly related group 
that shares a common ancestor with the group in question. Using an 
analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA), Ramey et al. examined genetic 
variation in a hierarchical fashion within and between Preble's and 
Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse. This comparison revealed most of the 
genetic variation was within subspecies (64 percent) rather than among 
these subspecies (37 percent). Additionally, they found that all 4 
identified Preble's mtDNA haplotypes were included within the 16 
identified Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse mtDNA haplotypes. However, 
Ramey et al. also documented a high level of mtDNA variation 
(nucleotide diversity) in Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse compared to 
Preble's, ``making these subspecies seem more diverged than the shared 
mtDNA haplotypes indicate.''
    Ramey et al. (2004) believed these findings are consistent with a 
founder effect. A founder effect is the establishment of a new 
population by a few original founders that carry only a small fraction 
of the total genetic variation of the parental population. A population 
may be descended from a small number of ancestral individuals for two 
reasons--(1) A small number of individuals may colonize a place 
previously uninhabited by their species; or (2) an established 
population may fluctuate in size such that a population passes through 
a ``bottleneck'' in which only a few individuals survive, and later 
expands again under more favorable conditions. Ramey et al. speculated 
that there were population ``bottlenecks'' during southward 
colonization into what is now Preble's range. Based on

[[Page 5407]]

their results and analysis, the authors concluded that Preble's is a 
less genetically diverse population of Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse.
    Second, Ramey et al. (2004) completed a morphometric analysis on 
skull measurements of the Preble's and the Bear Lodge meadow jumping 
mouse (testing the same nine skull measurements that Krutzsch (1954) 
used to support his taxonomic assertions). Four repeated measurements 
were taken with digital calipers and recorded to the nearest hundredth 
of a millimeter as per Conner and Shenk (2003). Ramey et al. employed 
the following criterion for testing distinguishability between 
subspecies-->= 90 percent of specimens correctly classified at a 
posterior probability of p> 0.95. Employing this method, the analysis 
of Ramey et al. found no basis for the quantitative morphological skull 
differences Krutzsch noted. While significant difference was observed 
between the Preble's and the Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse in three 
of the nine skull measurements, two of these three differences did not 
correspond to those Krutzsch described.
    Third, Ramey et al. (2004) performed a critical review of 
Krutzsch's qualitative description of Preble's as a subspecies. The 
authors found that the skull shape and pelage differences noted by 
Krutzsch (1954) had no quantitative basis and considered them 
``unsupported opinion.''
    Fourth, Ramey et al. (2004) discussed ecological distinctiveness as 
an integral part of the species concept presented by Crandall et al. 
(2000). Crandall et al. (2000) proposed a hypothesis-testing approach 
describing management units based upon genetic and ecological 
distinctiveness. Crandall et al. advocated that ecological differences 
among populations can drive adaptive change that would not be detected 
by molecular markers alone. Ramey et al. also examined the literature 
for evidence of ecological differences between subspecies. They found 
no published ecological evidence for discreteness between Preble's and 
the Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse. Ramey et al. asserts that this 
lack of published information supports his conclusion that these 
subspecies should be synonymized.
    Ramey et al. (2004) concluded that, based on the lack of genetic, 
morphological, or published ecological evidence for genetic 
distinctiveness between the Preble's and the Bear Lodge meadow jumping 
mouse, these subspecies should be synonymized (considered the same 
subspecies) as Zapus hudsonius campestris. This taxonomic revision has 
not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal and has not been 
incorporated into the formal taxonomy of the genus.

Peer Review of Ramey et al. 2004

    The Ramey et al. (2004) report has undergone peer review. The 
Colorado Division of Wildlife solicited and received nine peer reviews 
of this report and transmitted those reviews to the Service on April 
24, 2004. We solicited additional peer reviews focused on specific 
aspects of the report from seven scientists. In addition to the report, 
the Service sent reviewers maps of the meadow jumping mouse range; the 
May 13, 1998, final rule to list Preble's (63 FR 26517); and a November 
5, 2003, working draft of a recovery plan for Preble's. Five peer 
reviewers responded to Service questions and provided comments on the 
study. Reviews from all 14 peer reviewers ranged from strong support of 
the work, to pointed criticism of study design, data interpretation, 
and conclusions. These reviews are available in their entirety at 
http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/preble/. Because Ramey et al. 2004 

remains unpublished, these peer reviews were crucial in our 
consideration of what constitutes the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the taxonomy of this subspecies. A 
summary of the peer reviews and other public comments follow below.
    Of the 14 peer reviews, 5 supported the Ramey et al. (2004) study 
and its conclusions (Robert Bradley, Texas Tech, in litt. 2004; Keith 
Crandall, Brigham Young University, in litt. 2004; David Hafner, New 
Mexico Museum of Natural History, in litt. 2004; Brett Riddle, 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in litt. 2004; Lisette Waits, 
University of Idaho, in litt. 2004), 3 leaned toward support of the 
study and its conclusions (Carron Meaney, Meaney and Associates, 
Boulder, Colorado, in litt. 2004; Jeffry Mitton, University of 
Colorado, Boulder, in litt. 2004; Jack Sites, Brigham Young University, 
in litt. 2004), and 6 were generally critical of the study or skeptical 
of its conclusions (David Armstrong, University of Colorado, Boulder, 
in litt. 2004; Mary Ashley, University of Illinois at Chicago, in litt. 
2004; Mary Conner, Utah State University, in litt. 2004; Marlis 
Douglas, Colorado State University, in litt. 2004; Sara Oyler-McCance, 
University of Denver and the Rocky Mountain Center for Conservation 
Genetics and Systematics, in litt. 2004; Gary White, Colorado State 
University, in litt. 2004). However, some of these peer reviewers were 
also supportive of portions of the study.
    Those who supported the conclusions of Ramey et al. (2004) 
generally accepted most aspects of the report. Bradley (in litt. 2004) 
wrote that Ramey et al. was an ``excellent piece of work'' on a 
controversial issue and particularly liked the study design intended to 
test a series of hypotheses. Bradley thought that the morphological and 
mtDNA analyses are convincing in that the two taxa actually represent a 
single taxon. Crandall (in litt. 2004) believed appropriate markers and 
methods were used and that the conclusions were ``right on''; he found 
the study impressive in its inclusion of both genetic and morphometric 
data coupled with an evaluation of previous work. Crandall thought the 
conclusions are well founded and well supported by the data. Hafner (in 
litt. 2004) noted that Ramey et al. employed appropriate methods, 
markers, evidence, and interpretation to convincingly argue that 
Preble's is not a valid subspecies, but that the synonymized entity 
remains imperiled. Riddle (in litt. 2004) thought that the data 
supported a lack of substantial morphological, ecological, and 
molecular differentiation between these two subspecies. Riddle thought 
this was a common outcome of molecular analyses of taxonomic subspecies 
within close geographic proximity, that are ecologically similar, and 
appear to have no surmounting biogeographic obstacles to movements 
across the landscape (from a historical perspective). While he did not 
support retaining Preble's and Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse as 
separate taxonomic units, Riddle was concerned for the conservation 
status of the synonymized taxonomic unit. Waits (in litt. 2004) 
believed that the authors provided convincing evidence for synonymizing 
because the hypothesis testing did not reject the hypothesis that the 
two are essentially the same morphologically and genetically. Meaney 
(in litt. 2004) did not take a definitive position on the results or 
conclusions of Ramey et al., but called the paper overall good science. 
Mitton (in litt. 2004) noted that appropriate markers and methods were 
used and suggested he would support the conclusions of Ramey et al. if 
the grounds for the removal of certain specimens could be validated. 
Jack Sites (Brigham Young University, in litt. 2004) viewed Ramey et 
al. as tentative support for synonymizing and suggested synonymizing if 
subsequent study validated their results.
    Of the reviewers critical of the report, most felt its conclusion 
that Preble's and the Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse

[[Page 5408]]

should be synonymized went beyond the data presented. Armstrong (in 
litt. 2004) saw the report as ``a small piece of the puzzle of 
geographic variation in the meadow jumping mouse'' and suggested that 
``a restricted, targeted investigation of this kind, laid out in an 
unpublished report, is not an appropriate vehicle for a taxonomic 
decision of the kind proposed.'' Ashley (in litt. 2004) suggested that 
more data is needed to synonymize. Conner (in litt. 2004) thought that 
ecological, behavioral, physiological, and geographic factors needed to 
be included in any testing of Preble's taxonomy. Douglas (in litt. 
2004) stated, ``Limitations of the data affect resolution of analysis 
and thus render the results inconclusive'' and that ``the overall tone 
of the manuscript lacks objectivity.'' Oyler-McCance (in litt. 2004) 
had `` no problem with the study itself except for some of the 
conclusions made by the authors,'' and did not feel that this study 
resolves the taxonomic question. Regarding the report's conclusion, 
White (in litt. 2004) stated, `` the report should conclude that no 
differences were detected given the measurements conducted, and should 
not jump to the unfounded conclusion that the two subspecies are 
    Several reviewers discussed the use of mtDNA to delineate valid 
subspecies used by Ramey et al. (2004). For example, Douglas (in litt. 
2004) noted that a timespan of greater than 10,000 years is the limit 
for mtDNA resolution and that taxa more recently diverged would be 
difficult to detect via mtDNA analysis. Oyler-McCance (in litt. 2004) 
noted that the genetic data gathered by Ramey et al. is from only one 
locus, and that this locus represents only the maternal history, which 
could very well differ from other genetic material of the subspecies. 
Oyler-McCance, Sites (in litt. 2004) and Riddle discussed the potential 
for introgression of Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse mtDNA on the 
Preble's nuclear background, but Riddle thought it unlikely to have 
happened simultaneously across the entire range of Preble's, given the 
generally fragmented nature of Preble's populations.
    Another issue bought up by several reviewers was use of ``ancient 
DNA'' from museum specimens. Ramey et al. (2004) noted that since 
museum collections are accessible for future scientific research, 
reliance on museum specimens means the study is repeatable. Douglas (in 
litt. 2004) noted that the use of museum specimens allows for specimens 
to be obtained from a large geographic area and for a study to be 
completed in short order. However, Douglas also detailed numerous 
problems with the use of ancient DNA such as the quality of DNA 
extracted from museum specimens is often inferior, making amplification 
difficult or the contamination of high-quality DNA from other samples 
    Another issue associated with the use of ancient DNA is the size of 
DNA fragments (i.e., the number of base pairs). Ramey et al. (2004) 
analyzed 355 base pairs of sequence data. Douglas (in litt. 2004) noted 
that this is a marginal data set for population level analyses; as a 
general rule, at least 1,000 base pairs should be evaluated to 
substantiate findings and make results conclusive. Although a larger 
number of base pairs is desirable (Courtney et al. 2004), mtDNA studies 
often utilize less than 1,000 base pairs (Riggs et al. 1997; Haig et 
al. 2004).
    Other issues were brought up by the reviewers. Douglas (in litt. 
2004) also questioned the use of western jumping mouse as Ramey et 
al.'s outgroup. Several reviewers discussed Ramey et al.'s removal of a 
number of specimens from their study and suggested their presumed 
identities be verified through further testing (Armstrong in litt. 
2004; Douglas in litt. 2004; Mitton in litt. 2004; Hafner in litt. 
2004). Ashley (in litt. 2004), Oyler-McCance (in litt. 2004), and 
Douglas (in litt. 2004) questioned Ramey et al.'s reliance on an AMOVA 
to evaluate variation within and among groups. Specifically, the 
standard for a subspecies employed by Ramey et al. requires greater 
diversity among accepted subspecies than within them. Ashley (in litt. 
2004) also questioned the use of variation within and among groups as a 
``very strict criterion'' to judge a subspecies'' validity, and 
suggested that based on haplotype frequencies the two subspecies are 
``genetically quite distinct.''
    A number of the reviewers detailed the strengths and the weaknesses 
of the morphological portion of the analysis performed in Ramey et al. 
(2004). For example, Meaney (in litt. 2004) found that the morphometric 
data and analysis appear solid. Ashley (in litt. 2004) and Sites (in 
litt. 2004) noted Ramey et al.'s strongest case for synonymizing comes 
from the morphological aspects of the report, rather than the genetics 
    Many of the reviewers, such as Waits (in litt. 2004), Meaney (in 
litt. 2004) and Riddle (in litt. 2004) discussed the conclusion by 
Ramey et al. (2004) regarding ecological discreteness. Ashley (in litt. 
2004), Conner (in litt. 2004), Douglas (in litt. 2004), and Oyler-
McCance (in litt. 2004) said it was not clear that there had been any 
evaluation of ecological difference and noted that the authors gave no 
references, making it difficult to judge how thoroughly they looked. 
Conner and Oyler-McCance also questioned what variables were compared. 
In Crandall's view (in litt. 2004), clear ecological differences over 
evolutionary time would result in morphologic differences; as none were 
found, a lack of ecological differences can be inferred. Overall, 
Crandall and Mitton (in litt. 2004) agreed with Ramey et al. (2004) 
that there did not appear to be clear ecological distinctions between 
Preble's and closely related taxa that justify conservation for 

Other Public Comments

    On March 31, 2004, we published a notice in the Federal Register 
(69 FR 16944) that the petition received on December 17, 2003, to 
delist Preble's presented substantial information to indicate the 
petitioned action may be warranted. As part of this Notice, we 
requested information on the genetic and taxonomic classification of 
Preble's, the abundance and distribution of the subspecies, and the 
threats faced by Preble's in relation to the five listing factors (as 
defined in section 4(a)(1) of the Act). In response, we received nine 
letters containing comments and information from government agencies 
(Colorado Department of Natural Resources, El Paso Board of County 
Commissioners, Douglas County Open Space and Natural Resources), 
organizations (Colorado Farm Bureau, Center for Native Ecosystems, 
Coloradans for Water Conservation and Development), and individuals. As 
noted above, 14 peer reviews of Ramey et al. 2004a were received and 
considered. For a full discussion of this issue, read the Peer Review 
section of this notice above.
    Colorado Department of Natural Resources called for the immediate 
delisting of the Preble's based on genetic studies by Ramey et al. 
(2004a) and increases in known occurrence. They contended that 
essential conservation efforts to protect the Preble's in Colorado 
would be carried on by State and local governments regardless of 
Federal listing status. They also provided extensive documentation of 
State and county efforts to conserve habitats within the Preble's range 
in Colorado.
    The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners supported 
delisting, described their efforts toward development of a regional 
Habitat Conservation Plan, and suggested that a decision to delist 
would save the county and its citizens time and money. The Douglas 
County Division of Open Space

[[Page 5409]]

and Natural Resources described habitat conditions and conservation 
measures employed in Douglas County, and commented that Douglas County 
populations should not be considered a distinct population segment of 
wider jumping mouse distribution.
    In a single letter representing their combined comments, the Center 
for Native Ecosystems, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Native 
Ecosystem Council, and Forest Guardians opposed delisting of the 
Preble's. They discussed abundance and distribution of Preble's, 
genetics and taxonomic classification, threats to Preble's, and the 
status of the Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse. The Colorado Farm Bureau 
supported delisting of Preble's and commented on the lack of threats to 
Preble's from agricultural activities. The Coloradans for Water 
Conservation and Development, one of the petitioners, provided comments 
that largely paralleled the contentions made in their petition. Three 
private individuals provided comments--One contending that delisting 
based on available genetic studies was premature; one largely 
criticizing the original listing; and one discussing threats to 
Preble's in the broader context of human impacts to the environment.

Petition Finding

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information regarding the taxonomy and biology of this species. We 
reviewed the petition and associated documents, information available 
in our files, and other published and unpublished information submitted 
to us during the public comment period following our 90-day petition 
finding. We reviewed new data and other information on the genetics, 
taxonomy, life history, ecology, status, and existing threats to 
    At this time, we view Ramey et al. (2004) as the best scientific 
and commercial information available regarding the taxonomy of the 
Preble's and Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse. Within the next year, the 
Service expects additional genetics information (i.e., nuclear DNA 
results) that will verify (or refute) the conclusions of Ramey et al. 
The peer reviews of the report suggested a majority (8 out of 14) 
either support or lean toward supporting the taxonomic conclusions of 
Ramey et al. (2004). Therefore, on the basis of the lack of distinct 
genetic and morphologic differences between the two putative 
subspecies, we conclude that Preble's is likely not a valid subspecies 
of meadow jumping mice (Zapus hudsonius). Based on the above 
conclusion, we find that the petitioned action is warranted because the 
original listing of Preble's as a subspecies of meadow jumping mouse 
was in error. Accordingly, we propose to delist or remove Preble's from 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 50 CFR 17.11.
    The Service will evaluate threats to the combined entity (Zapus 
hudsonius campestris) in all or a significant portion of its range 
before this rule is finalized. This finding and proposed rule do not 
attempt to analyze threats to the combined entity, Z. h. campestris. We 
are initiating a status review and will analyze the threats to the 
species in the final rule. Finally, as discussed in the 90-day finding 
(69 FR 16944), the Service will analyze whether the Preble's portion of 
Z. h. campestris qualifies as a Distinct Population Segment in need of 
protection before this rule is finalized.
    At this time, the Service is seeking additional information to 
perform this analysis. We currently have only limited information 
regarding the distribution, life history, ecology, and habitat of Bear 
Lodge meadow jumping mouse portion of Z. h. campestris, and no 
information regarding its abundance or population trends. While we have 
some information regarding land management and habitat conditions in 
the Black Hills, we lack information connecting these habitat 
conditions to population effects. Therefore, we are seeking additional 
information and data on meadow jumping mouse in the vicinity of the 
Black Hills. More detail of what is sought is outlined in the Public 
Comments Solicited section of this proposed notice and rule.
    In making this determination we have followed the procedures set 
forth in section 4(a)(1) of the Act and regulations implementing the 
listing provisions of the Act (50 CFR part 424).

Effects of the Rule

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as--(i) The 
specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species, at 
the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found 
those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation 
of the species, and (II) that may require special management 
considerations or protection, and (ii) specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed in 
accordance with the provisions of section 4 of the Act, upon a 
determination by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior 
(Secretary) that such areas are essential for the conservation of the 
species. ``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and procedures 
needed to bring the species to the point at which listing under the Act 
is no longer necessary.
    Critical habitat was designated for the Preble's on June 23, 2003 
(68 FR 37275). The designation included eight habitat units totaling 
approximately 12,632 hectares (31,222 acres) found along 578.1 km 
(359.2 mi) of rivers and streams in eastern Colorado and in 
southeastern Wyoming. The designation includes river and stream reaches 
and adjacent areas in the North Platte River and South Platte River 
drainages. By removing the Preble's from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife, this proposal, if finalized, will eliminate all 
currently designated critical habitat for the species.

Special Regulations Under Section 4(d)

    Section 9 of the Act prohibits take of endangered wildlife. The Act 
defines take to mean harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, 
trap, capture, or collect or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. 
However, the Act also provides for the authorization of take and 
exceptions to the take prohibitions. Take of listed species by non-
Federal property owners can be permitted through the process set forth 
in section 10 of the Act. For federally funded or permitted activities, 
take of listed species may be allowed through the consultation process 
of section 7 of the Act. While section 9 of the Act establishes 
prohibitions applicable to endangered species, the Service has issued 
regulations (50 CFR 17.31) applying those same prohibitions to 
threatened wildlife. These regulations may be tailored for a particular 
threatened species through promulgation of a special rule under section 
4(d) of the Act. When a special rule has been established for a 
threatened species, the general regulations for some section 9 
prohibitions do not apply to that species, and the special rule 
contains the prohibitions, and exemptions, necessary and advisable to 
conserve that species.
    On May 22, 2001, the Service adopted special regulations governing 
take of the threatened Preble's (66 FR 28125). The special regulations 
provide exemption from take provisions under section 9 of the Act for 
certain activities related to rodent control, ongoing agricultural 
activities, landscape maintenance, and existing uses of water. On 
October 1, 2002, the Service amended those regulations to provide 
exemptions for

[[Page 5410]]

certain activities related to noxious weed control and ongoing ditch 
maintenance activities (67 FR 61531). On February 24, 2004, the Service 
proposed permanent extension of the amended special regulations (69 FR 
8359). On May 20, 2004, the Service extended the special regulations 
permanently (69 FR 29101). The current special regulations at 50 CFR 
17.40(l) will be eliminated by this proposal, if finalized, because 
Preble's will no longer be protected by the Act.

Future Conservation Measures

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us to monitor a species for at 
least 5 years after it is delisted based on recovery. Because Preble's 
is being delisted due to new information that demonstrates that the 
original classification was in error, rather than due to recovery, the 
Act does not require us to monitor this animal species following its 

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we solicit 
comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning this proposed rule. Generally, we seek information, 
data, and comments concerning the taxonomic classification and 
conservation status of Preble's and Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse. 
More specifically, we seek data from any systematic surveys for Bear 
Lodge meadow jumping mouse, as well as any studies that may show 
population size or trends. We request quantitative information 
regarding the life history, ecology, and habitat use of Bear Lodge 
meadow jumping mouse, as well as information regarding the 
applicability of information relevant to other subspecies. We solicit 
information on the threats faced by the Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse 
and Preble's in relation to the five listing factors (as defined in 
section 4(a)(1) of the Act). We seek information regarding the effects 
of current land management on population distribution and abundance of 
Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse. And finally, we seek information 
regarding the possibility of contact and interaction between Bear Lodge 
meadow jumping mouse and adjacent subspecies of meadow jumping mouse 
(i.e., Zapus hudsonius intermedius and Z. h. pallidus) or other 
information informing a Distinct Population Segment analysis.
    Submit comments as indicated under ADDRESSES. If you wish to submit 
comments by e-mail, please avoid the use of special characters and any 
form of encryption. Please also include your name and return address in 
your e-mail message.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home address from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to 
the extent allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which 
we would withhold from the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, 
as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name or address, 
you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comment. 
However, we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make all 
submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals 
identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations 
or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. 
Comments and other information received, as well as supporting 
information used to write this rule, will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 
address. In making a final decision on this proposal, we will take into 
consideration the comments and any additional information we receive. 
Such communications may lead to a final regulation that differs from 
this proposal.

Public Hearing

    The Act provides for one or more public hearings on this proposal, 
if requested. Requests must be received within 45 days of the date of 
publication of the proposal. Such requests must be made in writing and 
addressed to the Field Supervisor, Colorado Field Office, Ecological 
Services, 755 Parfet Street, Suite 361, Lakewood, Colorado 80215.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 
34270), we will solicit the expert opinions of at least three 
appropriate and independent specialists for peer review of this 
proposed rule. The purpose of such review is to ensure that decisions 
are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We 
will send peer reviewers copies of this proposed rule immediately 
following publication in the Federal Register. We will invite peer 
reviewers to comment, during the public comment period, on the specific 
assumptions and conclusions regarding the proposed delisting of this 
species. We will summarize the opinions of these reviewers in the final 
decision document, and we will consider their input as part of our 
process of making a final decision on the proposal.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR 1320, 
which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 
3501 et seq.), require that interested members of the public and 
affected agencies have an opportunity to comment on agency information 
collection and recordkeeping activities (5 CFR 1320.8(d)). The OMB 
regulations at 5 CFR 1320.3(c) define a collection of information as 
the obtaining of information by or for an agency by means of identical 
questions posed to, or identical reporting, recordkeeping, or 
disclosure requirements imposed on, 10 or more persons. Furthermore, 5 
CFR 1320.3(c)(4) specifies that ``ten or more persons'' refers to the 
persons to whom a collection of information is addressed by the agency 
within any 12-month period. This rule does not include any collections 
of information that require approval by OMB under the Paperwork 
Reduction Act.

National Environmental Policy Act

    The Service has determined that Environmental Assessments and 
Environmental Impact Statements, as defined under the authority of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Act. A notice outlining the Service's reasons for this determination 
was published in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 


    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Colorado Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, the Service proposes to amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth 


    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

[[Page 5411]]

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500, unless otherwise noted.

Sec.  17.11  [Amended]

    2. Section 17.11(h) is amended by removing the entry for ``Mouse, 
Preble's meadow jumping'' under ``Mammals'' from the List of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife.

Sec.  17.40  [Amended]

    3. Section 17.40 is amended by removing and reserving paragraph 

Sec.  17.95  [Amended]

    4. Section 17.95(a) is amended by removing the entry for critical 
habitat for the Preble's meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius 

    Dated: January 28, 2005.
Marshall P. Jones Jr.,
Deputy Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 05-2020 Filed 1-31-05; 10:56 am]