ALBUQUERQUE, June 11 (UPI) -- More than 30 years after the state of New Mexico listed its native meadow jumping mouse as endangered, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has offered the rare mouse federal protections in three western states.
Although FWS hasn't offered a final word on exactly what types of habitat will be protected along with the jumping mouse, the species -- now protected in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona -- is fond of the meadows that abut streams and rivers.
Conservationists applauded the decision, but ranchers are less pleased -- they say they'll be forced to abandon their grazing lands as federal wildlife officials fence off newly protected habitat.
"Once again, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chose to cater to big-city radical special interests instead of protecting our jobs, and ignored the fact that conservation and economic growth are not mutually exclusive," Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said in a statement. "FWS failed to recognize that its own policies -- which have stopped timber harvesting and forest thinning -- are to blame for the raging wildfires that threaten the mouse."
But environmental advocates say the meadow jumping mouse is vital link in the food chain, one that must be protected.
"Mice are part of the food chain across the entire ecosystem," said Jay Lininger, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. "They're a highly sought-after food source for a variety of snakes, foxes, and birds like redtail hawks. The entire food chain suffers if the jumping mouse blinks out."