The U.S. Forest Service recently finished putting up miles of barbed wire fencing in New Mexico — to protect the newly-endangered meadow jumping mouse.
The mouse, which was declared an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just months ago, can jump up to three feet at a time — more than three times its body length. The fencing, enclosing over 200 acres, was installed to protect the rodent’s water sources.
New Mexico Watchdog reports that the enclosures have aggravated local ranchers, whose cattle used to graze on the now-restricted land. According to the Forest Service, going into the “occupied habitat,” as they refer to it, “is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000.00 for individuals and $10,000.00 for organizations, by imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.”
“We’re not insensitive to protecting the mouse,” rancher Orlando Lucero said in July. “But let’s work on something that keeps everyone’s interests in mind.”
The fencing is four feet high and was finished just before the five week fall grazing season, according to NMW.
While the order forbidding grazing in the enclosure says the fencing is “temporary” and “short-term,” it does not say exactly when the fencing will be removed, and environmental groups are already pressuring the Forestry Service to take stronger measures. The order does specify that the fencing can remain until as long as October 2, 2015, “unless rescinded sooner.”
“It’s important to all of us,” said Bryan Bird, a WildEarth Guardians program director. “These resources are ours and we need to make sure we’re protecting for them for everybody’s enjoyment, not just the livestock industry… It may seem like a little mouse to people but it’s a big indicator.”
“The Closure Order encompasses four sites for a total of 222 acres within the two drainages,” it reads. “The prohibitions are needed to protect the occupied habitat of this endangered species. This special closure is temporary until environmental analysis is conducted for permanent and continued long-term protection and recovery of New Mexico meadow jumping mouse habitat at this location.”
“The livestock industry has enjoyed special treatment from the federal government for so long that our streams have been trampled to death,” Bird told the Albuquerque Journal. “We don’t know what healthy rivers look like anymore.”