On behalf of a broad coalition of sound science and property rights advocates, PLF filed a petition with the federal government to delist the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse from the Endangered Species Act. The government originally listed the mouse on the theory that it was a distinct subspecies whose numbers were declining. However, later studies showed that the mouse has strong genetic links to other, clearly prolific mice. When considered as part of that larger population, the mouse bears no risk of extinction, and the restrictions on habitat – estimated to cost Wyoming and Colorado landowners more than $200 million over 20 years – should be lifted.
In 1998, the federal government listed the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, thus triggering extensive protections for the mice and their habitat, then thought to be exclusively within Wyoming and Colorado. The government relied on a 1954 taxonomy study that singled out the Preble’s mouse as distinctly different from other jumping mice. However, the science underlying this listing was always shaky because no study – including the 1954 study – had sought to identify the populations of mice that existed in areas beyond those adjacent to the range of the Preble’s mouse. Only in 2013 was such a study published identifying all jumping mouse populations in North America and that study showed strong genetic and other similarities between the Preble’s mouse and numerous healthy populations extending north into Canada and into western Alaska. Once researchers considered these northern populations, it became clear that the Preble’s jumping mouse was thriving, not threatened.
PLF represents Dr. Rob Roy Ramey, a scientist who questioned the initial findings that the government relied upon to list the mouse, as well as the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, and two Colorado homebuilder associations on a petition to delist the mouse. The stakes are high: land use restrictions imposed to protect Preble’s mouse habitat is estimated to cost property owners more than $200 million over 20 years. The restrictions remove land from productive use, all in the cause of protecting a mouse that actually belongs to one of the largest and most widespread genetic lineages of North American jumping mice.