Five environmental groups sued the federal government Tuesday, trying to get the Preble's meadow jumping mouse listed as "endangered" instead of "threatened" in Colorado, including northern El Paso County, which has some of the greatest numbers of the tiny rodent.
The groups are challenging a Bush administration decision last year to delist the mouse in Wyoming and keep its status as threatened in Colorado. That decision was a reversal of a 2005 effort by the administration to have it removed entirely, after some researchers claimed it was not a separate animal from a more common jumping mouse.
Development in the urban corridors of Colorado and Wyoming has destroyed much of the mouse's habitat, and it had been listed as threatened since 1998.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver by the Center for Native Ecosystems, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife.
"Our country's endangered wildlife is suffering from these lingering abuses of the Bush administration," said Jason Rylander, staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, in a news release. "It makes no sense for the protection of an imperiled animal to depend on which side of the state line it lives."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines an endangered species as "one that is in danger of extinction throughout all, or a significant portion, of its range." A threatened species is "one that is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future."
Erin Robertson, staff biologist with the Center for Native Ecosystems in Denver, said that under the mouse's threatened status, some activities in Preble's habitat don't need a special review, but they would if the mouse was endangered.
Those activities include rodent control within 10 feet of a structure, ongoing agriculture, landscaping maintenance, noxious-weed control, existing uses of water and ongoing ditch maintenance.