Rocky article on threatened Preble's mouse omitted key scientific determinations

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Reporting November 2 on a federal agency's proposal to maintain the Preble's meadow jumping mouse's "threatened" status in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain News cited research by a former Denver Museum of Nature & Science curator contending that the mouse did not "warrant protection." However, the article did not mention a later study disputing that scientist's findings or a separate panel's conclusion that "the weight of evidence" supported the "threatened" designation.

In a November 2 article reporting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) had announced its proposal to maintain the "threatened" status of the Preble's meadow jumping mouse in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain News cited former Denver Museum of Nature & Science curator Rob Roy Ramey's conviction that "the mouse was too genetically similar to the more prolific Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse to warrant protection." But while the News reported that Ramey "has been attacked by others who criticize his efforts," the article failed to mention either that a subsequent study by U.S. Geological Survey biologist Tim King refuted Ramey's findings or that a government-commissioned, independent scientific panel reviewed the two scientists' findings and unanimously concluded in 2006 that "the weight of evidence" supported the "threatened" subspecies designation for the mouse.

As the News reported, "The rare Preble's meadow jumping mouse would remain protected in Colorado but not in Wyoming, under a federal proposal. The recommendation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service drew both support and derision, common reactions in the years-long debate over whether the mouse deserves special protections." The News further reported:

In a related decision, federal biologists concluded the mouse qualifies as a distinct subspecies, overruling a view that the Preble's is nearly identical to other meadow jumping mice and doesn't deserve its "threatened" status.

The announcements mean the status quo reigns in Colorado and that developers and landowners will still need to take steps to ensure projects don't jeopardize Preble's favored habitats in streamside areas.

[...]

The latest determination follows years of what some dubbed the "mouse wars," as scientists engaged in a sometimes bitter dispute over whether the Preble's stands apart as a separate subspecies that deserved significant protections.

Rob Ramey, a former Denver Museum of Nature & Science curator who later went to work as an Interior Department consultant, published research contending the mouse was too genetically similar to the more prolific Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse to warrant protection.

But Ramey, in turn, has been attacked by others who criticize his efforts. Andrew Martin, a University of Colorado researcher, wrote to a scientific journal last year, arguing that Ramey's research on the mouse was "advocacy masquerading as science."

The News omitted the fact that two independent scientific reviews referencing Ramey's work have determined that the mouse is indeed a separate and distinct species. As Colorado Media Matters has noted (here, here, and here), King published a study subsequent to Ramey's that disputed the latter's findings. Faced with the discrepancy between the two scientists' conclusions, USFWS commissioned the Oregon-based Sustainable Ecosystems Institute (SEI) to "organize an independent scientific review panel to analyze, assess, and weigh the reasons why the data, findings, and conclusions of King et al. (2006) differ from the data, findings, and conclusions of Ramey et al." In a July 20, 2006, letter conveying its findings, SEI stated: "In the case of the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse ... the panel unanimously conclude that the weight of evidence currently clearly supports retention of the subspecies as a valid taxon."

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