Save the Jumping Mouse!
The prarie fire of protest against federal ownership of western lands reached Otero County, New Mexico.when the US Forest Service fenced off a creek vital for cattle to survive in the drought-stricken region.
The reason? "The fence is needed to protect the Agua Chiquita riparian area and habitat for the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse," reports the Washington Times.
Although Bundy ranch comparisons are inevitable, one key distinction is that the Otero County ranchers, unlike Mr. Bundy, haven’t broken any laws. They own the rights to the water under New Mexico law, but the creek is within the federally owned forest.
“The Forest Service is coming in and saying, ‘We’re in charge of the water and the water is part of the forest,’” said Sheriff House. “It’s a control issue, and they’re trying to push the rancher out. They’re using every excuse in the book. One area is a riparian area. One area is critical habitat. One area might be for endangered species.”
At a May 5 board meeting, Forest Supervisor Travis Moseley told the commissioners that Agriculture Department counsel assured him that the Forest Service’s actions in the Lincoln National Forest were on “sound legal footing.”
District ranger James Duran said the Forest Service is taking steps to protect habitat for the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, which was proposed for listing as an endangered species in June 2013 after a 251-species settlement in 2011 between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and WildEarth Guardians.
“Fish and Wildlife Services are preparing to list the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse,” Mr. Duran told the Alamogordo Daily News. “With the meadow mouse listing, what we’ve been told is they do plan to move forward in June of 2014 to list that as an endangered species. Once a species is listed as an endangered species it’s protected. Federally protected. We have to abide by that.”
Two weeks ago, the Otero County Commission issued a cease-and-desist letter to the Forest Service, saying the fence “amounts to nothing short of criminal trespass by your personnel, potential animal cruelty and several other violations of state criminal or civil law.”
The agency replaced a barbed-wire fence with a 3-foot pipe fence that elk and deer, but not cattle, can jump over. Hundreds of elk, deer and feral hogs are still able to drink from the creek.
Mr. Moseley said the Forest Service created an opening in the fence for cattle, but Albuquerque lawyer Blair Dunn, who represents the county on the issue, said, “It’s really a needle in a haystack for the cows to figure out how to get into the 10-foot space.”
This is par for the course for the Feds who never met an endangered species they couldn't use to justify controlling land. One wonders if deer and elk don't destroy the habitat of the mouse, why does the government figure cows will?
Just another aspect of the war on ranchers and common sense use of western lands.