Preble’s mouse might get bigger digs

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to revise the amount of critical habitat designated for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse in Colorado, where it is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse was listed as a threatened species during May 1998. Critical habitat was designated during June 2003.

FWS is re-examining the critical habitat designation “due to concerns that a former political official of the Department of the Interior inappropriately influenced the outcome, resulting in the exclusion of lands in Boulder, Douglas and El Paso counties.”

Included in the proposal are stream corridors in El Paso and Teller counties along Monument Creek and its tributaries.

The revision would add 184 miles of rivers and streams and 18,462 acres of adjacent habitat to the existing critical habitat designation in Colorado.

Critical habitat is a term in the ESA used to identify geographic areas that contain features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that might require special management or protection.

The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve or other conservation area. It does not allow government or public access to private lands.

According to the FWS, “areas proposed as critical habitat for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse provide a pattern of dense riparian vegetation; adjacent floodplains and vegetated uplands with limited human disturbance; areas that provide connectivity between and within populations; and the necessary hydrology to create and maintain river and stream channels, floodplains and vegetation.”

During July 2008, the service removed ESA protections, including critical habitat protections, for Preble’s meadow jumping mouse populations in Wyoming. The subspecies remains protected as a threatened species in the Colorado portion of its range.

The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse is a small mammal with a long tail, large hind feet and long hind legs. The total length of an adult is about 7 to 10 inches.

The public will have until Dec. 7 to submit scientific information regarding the proposal to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov .

More information about the proposal is available at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/preble.