Mouse doesn’t deserve spot on protection list

By Freedom New Mexico

One might interpret the sparse turnout at last month’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service meeting on the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse as a sign of indifference and acquiescence.

Or one might take it as a sign of resignation and silent protest — evidence that most citizens by now recognize the agency will do everything in its power to keep the animal on the endangered species list, no matter what contradictory evidence or arguments are made.

It might also have had something to do with the meeting being scheduled for 4 o’clock in the afternoon on a Monday in the midst of the holiday season — a time when normal people are working, commuting, greeting returning school kids, Christmas shopping and leading busy lives.

If it’s a choice between going to happy hour and sitting through another seemingly pointless act in this charade, most people quite wisely would choose the former. Unless a Preble’s mouse has infiltrated their homes and is gnawing away at the base of the Christmas tree, most people have higher priorities than attending another dog-and-pony show.

Of course those who support the agency’s decision to keep the mouse listed in Colorado showed up. What else do professional agitators and advocates have to do? This isn’t just an interest of theirs: It’s their mission in life. They’ve turned their obsessions into a vocation.

Most of the rest of us, even if we care, are sprinting to stay two steps ahead of the tax collector, so USFWS bio-crats can hold meetings and pretend to listen, but go on regulating as if this creature is on the brink of extinction.

It obviously isn’t on the brink of extinction, judging from the agency’s proposal to lift federal protections in Wyoming but keep them in place in Colorado. One dubious subspecies has thus spawned two more: the Colorado Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and the Wyoming Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.

Perhaps no one is up in arms about such an absurd decision because absurdities have in this case become commonplace. Seeing the lengths to which the agency went to discredit or discount those who questioned the animal’s taxonomic status and challenged its listing, resignation is a perfectly rational response.

Officials in Wyoming made such loud noise on the issue they got the regulatory relief they wanted. More power (and freedom) to them.

Most officials in Colorado either avoided the confrontation or watched passively from the sidelines. Coloradans will pay for their passivity with their property rights. That’s the long and short of it.

Show up at meetings and file comments if it brings you catharsis. But it’s obvious to most folks that the process was rigged by advocacy groups and agency insiders, who view any challenge to the Endangered Species Act as a threat to their agendas and influence. That recognition is breeding cynicism and surrender.

We might take away one lesson from all this, however: An ill-conceived and irrational law can’t result in rational priority-setting or policy-making. Until the ESA itself is discarded or re-written, such absurdities will continue. The long, strange saga of the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse should serve as Exhibit 1 in the case of The People v. the ESA.