07/02/04 — Poof! A little research, and a whole species is gone

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Poof! A little research, and a whole species is gone

In the bureaucratic world of acronymia, he’s called the PMJM. That stands for Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.

The government established a PMA for it. That stands for protected mouse area.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put the PMJM on the ESL — endangered species list — in 1998. Environmental groups had said they were beginning to notice that there weren’t as many Preble’s meadow jumping mice as there used to be and Mankind, that beastly assemblage of human callousness, must be causing them to die off.

All sorts of regulations were established for humans within the protected mouse area, which included 31,000 acres in Colorado and Wyoming. For a species that was endangered, this one sure had a big habitat.

He supposedly lived in shrubby areas along streams, so the government decreed that land near streams in his habitat couldn’t be developed by the people who owned the land. The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse got priority.

Local governments and landowners petitioned to get the species off the endangered list. The regulations have cost landowners, developers and governments an estimated $100 million in the last six years.

But the Fish and Wildlife Service decided in December that the mouse should continue to rule in its realm.

Now comes certain proof that all those regulations, all that government intrusion into how people used their land, all that economic loss, was unnecessary. It isn’t that the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse wasn’t endangered. In fact, it didn’t exist at all.

The PMJM is actually a BLMJM — Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse — and not a separate species.

When the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse was “identified” 54 years ago, it was through cursory examination. Genetic testing that is available today disproves the research done in 1950, and even the man who did the old research says so.

Now the Fish and Wildlife Service should give up and give in. It does not need to protect a species that is nonexistent.

But it also needs to do something else. It needs to do a little more research before adding an animal to the endangered list. While the research methods that now have disproved the existence of the species were not known in 1950, they were known in 1998 when the mouse was added to the endangered list. If adequate study had been done then, millions of dollars and untold human anxiety would have been saved.

The whole saga of the PMJM is NUTS.

Published in Editorials on July 2, 2004 11:50 AM