Suit Filed to Overturn Bush-Era Removal of Protections for Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse in Wyoming

For Immediate Release

Conservation Groups
Contact: 

Erin Robertson, Center for Native Ecosystems, (303) 546-0214 x 5
Duane Short, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, (307) 742-7978
Dr. Sylvia Fallon, Natural Resources Defense Council, (202) 513-6246
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Jason Rylander, Staff Attorney, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-3245

Suit Filed to Overturn Bush-Era Removal of Protections for Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse in Wyoming

DENVER - Five conservation groups today challenged a Bush administration
decision to strip protections from endangered species. Under Bush's
leadership, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was ordered to stop
protecting endangered plants and wildlife throughout their ranges, and
instead only protect the populations that were closest to extinction.
Under this controversial reinterpretation of the Endangered Species
Act, important habitat for endangered species recovery will not be
protected. The Bush-era interpretation has already denied protections
for several endangered species, and puts wildlife around the country at
risk. For now, conservation groups have focused their challenge on the
unwarranted loss of protections for the Preble's meadow jumping mouse.

On July 10, 2008, the Service removed protections for the Preble's
meadow jumping mouse in Wyoming while keeping the Colorado populations
on the endangered species list. Since August 11 of last year, Wyoming
Preble's meadow jumping mice have no protection.

Due
to habitat loss and the mouse's disappearance from much of the urban
corridor in Colorado and Wyoming, the Preble's mouse had been protected
as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1998.

"Endangered
species around the country are losing protections while this illegal
move by the Bush administration stands," said Erin Robertson, senior
staff biologist with Center for Native Ecosystems in Denver. "The fate
of the mouse is important, but there is much more at
stake."                                                             

The
removal of protections for Preble's in Wyoming is one of several
decisions issued by the Service since its March 2007 receipt of a memo
from the office of the solicitor proclaiming that the Endangered
Species Act allows the agency to neglect all but the most threatened
part of an endangered species' range. Similar "split decisions" have
failed to fully protect the gray wolf, Gunnison's prairie dog, and
Queen Charlotte goshawk.

The July decision was the
last in a string of Bush administration attempts to remove protections
for the jumping mouse. The Service had claimed in 2005 that the mouse
was not a valid subspecies and therefore did not warrant continued
protection. In 2006 an independent scientific panel concluded that the
Service had relied on contaminated data, and that the Preble's meadow
jumping mouse was unique and warranted protection under the Endangered
Species Act.

"The science is settled," said Dr.
Sylvia Fallon, staff scientist for the Natural Resources Defense
Council in Washington, D.C. "The mouse is unique and in trouble. Mice
don't read maps - it makes no sense for protections to end at the state
line for endangered species."

In 2007, under
pressure from Congress to account for politically motivated decisions
about endangered species, the Service admitted that the 2005 proposal
to remove protections for the mouse and much of its critical habitat
was instigated by political appointee Julie MacDonald. An earlier
Interior Department investigation had concluded that MacDonald
inappropriately overruled agency scientists' conclusions and
recommendations.

"The Obama administration needs
to reject this piecemeal approach to protection and salvage the
agency's scientific integrity," said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity
program director for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity.
"Wyoming's mice are just as important for the species' survival as
those in Colorado."

"Our country's endangered
wildlife is suffering from these lingering abuses of the Bush
administration," said Jason Rylander, staff attorney for Defenders of
Wildlife. "It makes no sense for the protection of an imperiled animal
to depend on which side of the state line it lives."

Duane
Short, wild species program director for the Wyoming-based Biodiversity
Conservation Alliance, said: "Patchwork protection for this mouse or
any endangered species is akin to planned extinction by neglect. If we
fail to protect the jumping mouse populations in Wyoming, there will be
no hope of recolonizing Colorado habitats if those critically imperiled
populations die out."

The Preble's meadow jumping
mouse has large hind feet, long hind legs, and is capable of impressive
athletic feats. Using its long tail as a rudder, the mouse can launch
itself 18 inches into the air and switch direction mid-flight.

The
groups filing suit in Denver District Court today are Center for Native
Ecosystems (Denver), Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (Laramie),
Natural Resources Defense Council (New York), Center for Biological
Diversity (Tucson), and Defenders of Wildlife (Washington, D.C.). They
are being represented by Eric Glitzenstein of Meyer Glitzenstein &
Crystal and Mike Harris of the University of Denver Environmental Law
Clinic.

For a high-resolution image of the Preble's
meadow jumping mouse, the Service's decision, the memo from the office
of the solicitor, and other supporting materials, visit: http://nativeecosystems.org/species/mammals/prebles-meadow-jumping-mouse.

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