DENVER, Colo.— The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge brought by two cattlemen’s associations seeking to overturn the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse’s critical habitat designation. This decision gives this remarkable mouse a fighting chance of survival.
Recognizing the mouse’s “exceptionally specialized habitat requirements,” the court found that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had adequately analyzed the economic impacts of protecting the mouse’s critical habitat. The court stated that “the conservation benefits” of protecting areas of the mouse’s habitat from livestock grazing by the cattlemen’s associations “were substantial while the benefits of exclusion were minimal.”
“I’m thrilled that the 10th Circuit upheld essential habitat protections for this adorable jumping mouse that stands on the brink of extinction,” said Ryan Shannon, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now I hope we can focus on recovery for these animals, rather than defending them from cynical attacks.”
Historically, the mouse lived along streams in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, but its habitat has been devastated by livestock grazing, water mismanagement, drought and fire. In 2016 the Fish and Wildlife Service designated 14,000 acres of critical habitat for the mouse across the three states, providing essential protections for the places the mouse needs to survive and recover.
Two cattlemen’s associations filed suit in 2018 seeking to overturn the designation. The associations claimed that the agency failed to fully consider the economic impact of designating critical habitat on their grazing allotments and that the failure to exclude their allotments was unlawful. Both claims were rejected first by the district court in 2020 and again last week by the 10th Circuit.
“We are in the midst of dual extinction and climate crises, and the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse’s habitat is seriously threatened by livestock grazing, stream dewatering, drought and fire,” said Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, WildEarth Guardians’ legal director. “This decision could mean the difference between extinction and survival for the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.”
The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse is unique, hibernating for up to nine months a year. This leaves a short time each summer for the little creatures to mate, reproduce and gain enough weight to survive their long hibernation. The mouse require a highly specialized habitat, including tall, dense grasses and forbs found only along streams that flow year-round. Protecting these streams doesn’t just benefit the mouse — it also benefits people and wildlife that depend on clean, healthy streams.