For Immediate Release, August 5, 2021

Contact:

Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity, (602) 799-3275, rsilver@biologicaldiversity.org
Mark Larson, Maricopa Audubon Society, (480) 310-3261, larsonwarren@gmail.com

Lawsuit Targets Cattle Grazing That Threatens Streamside Meadows, Endangered Species in New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society sued the U.S. Forest Service today to challenge its failure to protect streamside meadows in New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains from cattle. The areas are critical habitat for the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

“Cattle grazing is the reason these once-beautiful streamside meadows are trashed and the mouse is disappearing,” said Robin Silver, a cofounder of the Center. “It’s absurd that the Forest Service spends millions in taxpayer money failing to protect the area and stop this slow-motion extinction instead of just removing the cows.”

Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, says the Forest Service is failing to prevent cattle grazing in the jumping mouse’s critical habitat in the Lincoln National Forest, where the cows trample riparian areas and devour grasses that the mice need to survive.

The Forest Service reported more than 100 instances a year of cattle grazing in the mouse’s protected habitat. There have been 40 violations on one allotment during a recent two-month period, with three more documented this past week by Center staff. In spite of these numerous violations, the Forest Service has issued no non-compliance notices.

From 2016 to 2019, the Forest Service spent more than $8.4 million in public funds on the Sacramento allotment and the neighboring Agua Chiquita allotment to facilitate the grazing operations of two permit holders, with even more funding allocated this year to build more fencing.

“Public lands grazing is a privilege, not a right,” said Mark Larson, Maricopa Audubon president. “We’re all poorer when a species goes extinct. We hope the courts will hold federal officials accountable, save this little mouse and protect these spectacular public lands.”

The lawsuit lists multiple ways that the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are violating the Endangered Species Act. Most recently, they concluded in a biological opinion that allowing cattle to graze in the jumping mouse habitat would not harm the animals even though no new significant protections are planned in the near future.

The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse was listed as endangered in 2014, and the Fish and Wildlife Service protected nearly 14,000 acres of critical habitat for the endangered mouse in 2016.

The tiny mouse only lives along streams. It was once found from southern Colorado to central New Mexico and eastern Arizona but has been lost from most of its range due to loss and degradation of streamside habitat.

The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse hibernates for up to nine months a year, leaving a narrow window each summer to mate, reproduce and gain enough weight to survive its long hibernation. The mouse has highly specialized habitat needs, such as tall, dense grasses and forbs found only in riparian areas along perennial flowing streams.

Cattle concentrate in these riparian areas during the summer months, when the jumping mice are active. Their intensive grazing destroys the habitat and has resulted in isolated, fragmented populations that are highly vulnerable to occasional, yet inevitable, events such as wildfires.

The Center is represented in the litigation by Eubanks and Associates, LLC.

RSNew_Mexico_meadow_jumping_mouse_Jennifer_Frey_USFWS_FPWC-scr.jpg
New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. Photo credit, Jennifer Frey/USFWS Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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