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Feds declare New Mexico jumping mouse endangered

The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse has been listed as endangered.
The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse has been listed as endangered.
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The tiny mouse lives along streams and in wet areas in parts of New Mexico, southern Colorado and eastern Arizona. Biologists say the biggest threats are grazing and water use and management.

Regional officials with the U.S. Forest Service have acknowledged they will have to put up fences or take other action to protect water sources for the mouse. Ranchers say that could force them to abandon their grazing allotments.

According to Wildearth Guardians petition for protecting the mouse:

THe jumping mouse was first scientifically described in 1911 based on specimens discovered in 1858 and 1904 in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and northern Rio Grande valley in New Mexico. In New Mexico, additional observations of the jumping mouse through the 1960s indicated that it had a historical widespread distribution along the Rio Grande valley. The mouse was first discovered in the Sacramento Mountains in 1902, in the San Juan Mountains in 1928, and in the JemezMountains in 1969. Subsequent records through the 1970s were sparse in these mountain ranges. The State of New Mexico listed the species as threatened in 1983.

In the upper Rio Grande valley, mice were last observed in 1988 on San Juan Pueblo, but at the same time were found to be extinct Espanola, where they formerly occurred. Surveys at Albuquerque also failed to find the mouse. In the middle Rio Grande valley, the most recent study was at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge during 1991 and 1992, where ensity of mice in suitable habitat was 16-20 mice per acre,

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From May 29:

A battle that started over access to a small spring in the mountains of southern New Mexico could end up expanding to other areas of this drought-stricken state if federal land managers are forced to fence off more sources of water to protect a rare mouse.

The rare New Mexico meadow jumping mouse is being proposed for an endangered species listing, which would mean setting aside critical habitat along streams and wetlands. (Courtesy of New Mexico Game and Fish Department)

The rare New Mexico meadow jumping mouse is being proposed for an endangered species listing, which would mean setting aside critical habitat along streams and wetlands. (Courtesy of New Mexico Game and Fish Department)

Cal Joyner, the head forester for U.S. Forest Service lands in New Mexico and Arizona, is trying to get district rangers and ranchers talking now, but he concedes tensions could grow if more pressure is put on the region’s dwindling water resources.

“Now we are really struggling to figure out what are we going to be able to do to best balance the needs of habitat protection and allow for livestock grazing,” Joyner told The Associated Press in an interview.

Officials with the Lincoln, Santa Fe and Carson national forests have already sent letters to ranchers, warning that drought will likely continue to result in less forage on grazing allotments on national forest land and less water in streams and springs this season.

The letters talk about the lack of moisture but don’t mention the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, which federal wildlife managers have proposed to list as an endangered species. Along with the impending listing, the federal government wants to set aside critical habitat for the mouse along streams and wetlands in a dozen counties in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.

Federal wildlife managers say more fencing will likely be needed on the Lincoln and Santa Fe forests in New Mexico and Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest to keep livestock away from wetlands once the tiny rodent is listed.

Drought has already forced many ranchers to sell off large portions of their herds, but the government’s handling of the meadow jumping mouse is proving to be another frustration, said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association.

“They didn’t give citizens ample time to comment, and they’re not taking into account the social and economic consequences, which they’re supposed to,” Cowan said. “That is not following the spirit or intent of the law or the wording of the law.”

A final decision on the mouse is expected in the coming months.

Forest officials said there will be other options besides erecting more fences and that managers will have to consider each area separately and go through a public process before making any final decisions.

There are more than 470 grazing allotments and hundreds of permit holders among New Mexico’s five national forests. About a dozen allotment owners in northern New Mexico will be directly affected by the mouse listing, Cowan said.

In southern New Mexico, the fight over access to the Agua Chiquita continues with the Forest Service saying it has no authority to open the gates and Otero County commissioners arguing that ranchers have a right to water from the spring. The area below the spring went dry last summer, and ranchers and forest officials say that will likely happen again this year if the monsoon season doesn’t develop.

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