Fox News claimed that a move to protect an endangered jumping mouse from ranchers who graze cattle on public lands is “going to run [them] out of business” for a mouse they “can't even find,” but the mouse is a critical part of the food chain that can be protected if ranchers simply don't let their cattle trample on its habitat.
In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finalized protection for the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, which is at risk of extinction chiefly due to excessive cattle grazing. On July 7, Fox News' Fox and Friends hosted rancher Mike Lucero to lash out against the potential that fences will be erected to further protect the local streams that form the mouse's habitat from his cattle. Co-host Steve Doocy suggested that because Lucero has not seen the jumping mouse, it may not even exist anymore, calling it “crazy” that “they're doing all this to protect a mouse that might not even be there” :
The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse is generally nocturnal and hibernates for about nine months a year. It's also “precariously” endangered with only 29 “small” surviving populations, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. So it's not that surprising that Lucero has not seen one of these mice, which are critical because their extinction could disrupt the entire food chain. Jay Lininger of the Center for Biological Diversity explained in a Tech Times article: “They're a highly sought-after food source for a variety of snakes, foxes, and birds like redtail hawks. The entire food chain suffers if the jumping mouse blinks out.” The jumping mouse is a "bellwether species" for the Southwestern stream habitats critical to their survival, according to Brian Byrd of WildEarth Guardians. The mouse's stream habitat, critical to preserve clean water in the region, has been degraded primarily due to damaging livestock practices.
While Lucero claimed that protection of the mice's stream habitats will force him “out of business,” ranchers can simply pipe water from the river to their cattle rather than letting them go to the river in order to more responsibly graze, according to Lininger. Details such as this have been left out of local media coverage, including an article by New Mexico's largest newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal, titled “Endangered mouse may cost NM ranchers their livelihood” and from the right-wing Franklin Center's New Mexico Watchdog.org.
Lucero also claimed that the government agencies “failed to work with [the ranchers] on this issue,” but protection has been decades in the making. After being recognized as in need of protection since 1985, the mouse has been on the waiting list for protection for decades. Lucero claimed that the Forest Service forewent the standard procedure of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requiring environmental impact analyses before federal action is taken, saying they had a “sit-down meeting with them and they told us they [...] [would] not allow us the NEPA process or even environmental analysis.” However, a draft environmental assessment was released in April for public review and comment, and the NEPA process will start soon, according to the Forest Service.
Noah Greenwald, Endangered Species Director of the Center for Biological Diversity, stated in a phone call with Media Matters that ranchers such as Lucero have “resist[ed] efforts to improve ranch practices” because they have a sense of “entitlement to graze” on public lands “even if it is damaging,” and compared the situation to the standoff with Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy:
It's interesting [for Lucero] to say that they're not working with him because both the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service have been trying to work with them to correct this problem but they've reached a lot of resistance... There's been a lot of trespassing on these lands. Similar to the Cliven Bundy situation... these are public lands, these are ranchers who believe that they have an entitlement to graze in a way even if it is damaging, and who resist efforts to improve ranch practices.
Indeed, in Otero County, where Lucero lives, a sheriff cut down a decades-old fence that was already protecting the local spring and the New Mexico jumping mouse that lives near it, in violation of federal authority.