The Preble's meadow jumping mouse weighs less than an ounce and hibernates for almost seven months of the year. But it's a regular Godzilla in environmental circles, smashing developers' plans up and down the Front Range and generating no end of controversy.
Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unveiled a proposal to treat the mouse as a threatened critter in Colorado under the Endangered Species Act, while stripping it of similar protection in Wyoming. The Service also decided that the mouse is a specific subspecies, distinct from your garden variety jumping mouse, capping years of rodentlike tail-chasing on that point. See our previous coverage of the great mouse debate here and here.
What does all this signify to citizens of, say, Douglas County? It means that the mouse -- and a variety of other wildlife that share its preference for healthy streamside habitat -- will continue to enjoy protection in the most rapidly developing areas of eastern Colorado, forcing the master planners to squeeze more open space into their robotic subdivisions than they might prefer. It means that Wyoming, which had filed suit to seek de-listing of the mouse, will continue to sneer at the tree-huggers to the south while letting the drill rigs march across greater Evanston. And it means that the copious political intrigues that have surrounded the efforts to get obscure species such as the mouse off the endangered list will go on and on. –- Alan Prendergast