For Immediate Release, February 20, 2020

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 Forest Service Failure to Protect Endangered Mouse, Riparian Areas in Arizona’s White Mountains

TUCSON― Conservation groups filed suit today to protect meadows and streams in eastern Arizona’s White Mountains from cows, horses and elk. The riparian areas are home to the critically endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson, says the U.S. Forest Service is violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to maintain fences, round up feral animals, and enforce grazing regulations in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

“These beautiful meadows and streams are part of Arizona's environmental heritage,” said Robin Silver, a cofounder of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We entrust the care and protection of these publicly owned treasures to the Forest Service, but it’s completely abdicated its responsibility. And the adorable jumping mouse is being pushed closer to extinction.”

Staff members from the Center and Maricopa Audubon have documented extensive damage from horses and cows in the area. The Forest Service’s management plan acknowledges the requirement to keep these animals off the meadows and streams that are federally protected critical habitat for the jumping mouse.

On June 27, 2019, the groups filed a formal request with Apache-Sitgreaves Forest Supervisor Steve Best asking the Forest Service to round up the horses and cows to stop the damage. Field surveys last summer found unauthorized cows, feral horses, and signs of elk in riparian areas that the Forest Service claims are fenced off and protected.

“This is a travesty. The Forest Service promised to protect the beautiful White Mountain meadows and streams,” said Mark Larson, president of the Maricopa Audubon Society. “They’re not protecting them. So why do they get a paycheck?”

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 little mouse has highly specialized habitat needs, such as tall, dense grasses and forbs found only in riparian areas along perennial flowing streams.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also failed to prepare a recovery plan for the jumping mouse, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Today’s lawsuit seeks to force the Forest Service to protect the meadows and streams, reinitiate consultation on the management plan for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and develop stronger protections for the jumping mouse. The suit also asks the Fish and Wildlife Service to promptly prepare the required recovery plan for the species.

white_mountains_stream_Arizona_by_Robin_Silver_FPWC-scr.jpg
White Mountains stream, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Photo credit, Robin Silver/Center for Biological Diversity Images are 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.