Monday, April 10, 2017
The mouse that won't stop roaring
Why did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service waste over 100 million taxpayer dollars to save the Preble's meadow jumping mouse from extinction when the little critters are alive and well from Colorado to Alaska?
The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative public interest law firm based in California, has asked FWS that question by filing a delisting petition to remove the mouse from the "threatened" list of the Endangered Species Act. New scientific findings confirmed that the mouse, far from being "threatened," is not meaningfully different from other populations of jumping mice with healthy populations in a huge swath of Western North America.
...The previous mouse studies focused narrowly on populations in the Eastern Front Range regions of Colorado and Wyoming. More recent studies have moved beyond that limited territory with new biogeographical techniques, more sophisticated genetic analyses and dramatically wider sampling. In 2013 the peer reviewed journal Molecular Ecology published a comprehensive analysis of North American jumping mouse populations conducted by biologists Jason L. Malaney and Joseph A. Cook. They concluded that the Preble's mouse is "part of a single lineage that is ecologically indistinct and extends to the far north."
Will the Trump Fish and Wildlife Service heed the Pacific Legal Foundation petition and remove this spurious listing? Petitioner Dr. Rob Roy Ramey is the most qualified to answer that. He's the wildlife scientist who first challenged the Preble's jumping mouse as a subspecies. He suffered Inquisition-like intimidation by bureaucrats seeking to silence him and was subsequently forced out of his job. Now that his work is vindicated, he is looking forward to settling what he calls "unfinished business."
Ramey told me, "The Fish &Wildlife Service has consistently demonstrated an inability to reverse listing decisions that they are deeply vested in, even when the data have consistently proven them wrong."
But how can that be?
Ramey said, "The FWS modus operandi on contested ESA listings typically involves three key elements: obfuscation, intimidation, and ignoring contrary evidence. And then, if it looks like they are going to lose badly, they will simply move the goalposts and call for more research. The answer is not to give the Fish and Wildlife Service more money."
Will the Trump administration allow the USFWS to perform this deny-delay dance? Will Congress follow through by utilizing the appropriations process? We'll be watching to see what kind of dancing partner Zinke and the Republican majority in Congress prove to be and thereby determine if they be Mice or Men on this issue.
Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise