Environmental groups challenge jumping mouse management

The U.S. Forest Service should do more to protect the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius luteus) in New Mexico and Arizona, argues a new lawsuit filed earlier this month in federal court.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society argue that the agency has not done enough to protect the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse and its habitat in the Sacramento Mountains from cattle grazing. Therefore, it is in violation of the Endangered Species Act, they said.

The environmental groups are concerned that the Forest Service, with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval, is continuing to allow grazing on the Sacramento Allotment of the Lincoln National Forest despite the fact that that allotment is the only place in the national forest where the mouse is found. While the Forest Service has put fencing and other protective measures in place on the forest in recent years, the plaintiffs argue they are not doing enough to ensure the mouse’s survival.

The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse was first listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2014, based on substantial habitat loss and fragmentation from grazing, water management, drought and wildfire. In 2016, the USFWS designated nearly 22 square miles along about 170 miles of streams, ditches and canals as critical habitat in parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. In the last 15 years, researchers have identified 29 populations of jumping mice—two in Colorado, 15 in New Mexico and 12 in Arizona.

This month’s lawsuit comes after a separate lawsuit filed in 2020 that resulted in a settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity, the Forest Service and USFWS. The Forest Service agreed to maintain and expand fencing around waterways on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in Arizona to protect the mouse’s habitat from livestock and feral horse damage.

At the time of the settlement agreement, the agency already had plans to construct and prioritize an additional 2.25 miles of fencing. In the agreement, they committed to completing an additional stretch of 2.75 miles, which the Center for Biological Diversity agreed to help to find funding for. They also agreed to regularly check and maintain existing fencing to keep livestock and feral horses away from key mouse habitat. As another condition of the agreement, the USFWS will prepare a recovery plan for the jumping mouse by Jan. 31, 2023.

Read TWS’ Standing Position on Threatened and Endangered Species in the U.S. and Position Statement on the U.S. Endangered Species Act

Header Image: Environmental groups allege the U.S. Forest Service is not doing enough to protect New Mexico meadow jumping mice. Credit: J. N. Stuart