PLF and property rights groups petition feds for Preble’s mouse delisting
March 30, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C.; March 30, 2017: With a formal delisting petition submitted today, Pacific Legal Foundation is calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to remove the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse from Endangered Species Act coverage.
The petition is based on new scientific findings confirming that the mouse, far from being “threatened,” is not meaningfully different from other populations of jumping mice with healthy populations in a number of parts of North America.
PLF submitted the petition on behalf of a broad coalition of agriculture, business, and sound science advocates, including: wildlife biologist Dr. Rob Roy Ramey II; Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability; Wyoming Stock Growers Association; Colorado Cattlemen’s Association; Colorado Association of Home Builders; and Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs. PLF represents these petitioners free of charge, as with all of its clients.
The Preble’s mouse is a small rodent that was listed as a “threatened” subspecies in 1998, based on a 1950s study and an unpublished 1997 review. However, those analyses focused narrowly on mouse populations in the Eastern Front Range regions of Colorado and Wyoming. More recent studies have moved beyond that limited approach. In particular, in 2013 biologists Jason L. Malaney and Joseph A. Cook of the University of New Mexico produced a comprehensive analysis of North American jumping mice populations. They concluded that the Preble’s mouse is “part of a single lineage that is ecologically indistinct and extends to the far north.”
“The latest and best data show that the Preble’s mouse is actually a relatively common animal, and doesn’t belong on the Endangered Species Act list,” said PLF Senior Attorney Damien Schiff. “Its mistaken listing was based on a myopic focus on limited geographical regions, rather than an examination of jumping mice populations throughout the continent. Our delisting petition is about ensuring that environmental regulations are based on sound science, and this means regulators must take a geographically comprehensive look at the animals they’re reviewing, and not simply confine their studies to selected zip codes.
“The latest and best data vindicate the views of renowned wildlife biologist Dr. Rob Ramey, along with others, who for years have courageously objected to the politicized science that formed the basis of the mouse’s listing,” Schiff continued. “Moreover, the data demonstrate that the onerous regulatory burdens that the Preble’s mouse listing triggered — imposing restrictions on home building, ranching, and other productive activities in Colorado and Wyoming — have been unjustified. Indeed, the federal government itself acknowledges that the Preble’s mouse listing imposes a 20-year cost to the economy of more than $200 million, and that is likely a lowball figure.”
“Delisting is also needed for the cause of credible environmental protection,” said Schiff. “It is now clear that flawed listings like this one ultimately harm wildlife as much as property owners, by diverting and wasting scarce environmental resources. Indeed, as the University of New Mexico study showed, there are several unprotected populations of North American jumping mice that are in much greater need of regulatory safeguards than the Preble’s mouse.”
“Eleven years ago, Wyoming Stock Growers Association cited taxonomic work done by Dr. Rob Roy Ramey, as well as other independent scientific analysis, in calling for the delisting of the Preble’s mouse,” said Jim Magagna, Executive Vice President, Wyoming Stock Growers Association. “Further research has affirmed the validity of that science. The delisting of the Preble’s mouse is long overdue.”
“The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse is a perfect example of how getting the science wrong has lasting, real-life implications for landowners and ultimately the species itself,” said Terry Fankhauser, Executive Vice President of Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “If ever a restart button was needed in the ESA, it’s for the Preble’s mouse. How can we correctly provide conservation when there’s been such a major biological misstep by the regulators?”
“The Preble’s mouse listing is a perfect example of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to use the best available data, and instead substituting their preferences,” said Jean Sagouspe, Board President with the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability. “The ESA requires that listings be based solely on data. The FWS now routinely bases ESA decisions on speculation and surmise. How long will the courts tolerate this disregard for the provisions of the law?”
“The advocacy groups that defend the inexcusable ESA listing of the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse use fake science, intimidation, and federal courts to continue the charade of the imaginary creature’s demise,” said Marla Novak, Director of Government Affairs with the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs. “This farce has cost taxpayers and home buyers in our state millions of dollars by removing land from development, resulting in sprawl as well as requiring investment of millions of wasted dollars for public, taxpayer-funded infrastructure as well as raising the price of housing in times of challenges to rents and affordability.”
“This petition is based on completely independent research that shows that a supposedly threatened subspecies of jumping mice is neither genetically unique, nor restricted in range at all,” said Dr. Rob Roy Ramey. “It turns out that the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse subspecies is part of the largest and most widespread genetic lineages of jumping mice and extends from Colorado all the way into western Alaska.
“Wasting vast amounts of money and administrative effort on non-endangered populations of common species, shortchanges bona fide full species that are truly endangered,” Ramey continued. “If we are ever going to make the ESA more effective and less burdensome, the federal agencies in charge of it need to do a better job at prioritizing efforts and require a businesslike accountability in decision-making.”
The ESA requires regulators to respond to a delisting petition within 90 days, with a determination of whether the petition “presents substantial scientific or commercial information” indicating that delisting “may be warranted.” Failure to respond would trigger the possibility of litigation.
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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 17 wins of 19 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.