DENVER (CBS4)– A tiny mouse is causing a big commotion across Colorado. The Preble mouse is holding up some flood repair efforts.
Gov. John Hickenlooper wants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to invoke a special rule in federal law that allows for expedited work in an endangered habitat. That is essentially an exemption from the Endangered Species Act.
Preble’s meadow jumping mouse has the attention of lawmakers at every level of government.
As questions mount over whether the Prebel mouse will delay flood repair in Colorado, Weld County Commissioners said FEMA told them it wouldn’t. Then two months later FEMA issued a notice that the mouse may delay repairs. That was followed by a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife that the mouse won’t mean delays.
“And that is what has everybody nervous right now, if backtracking on that, okay, let’s have it in writing then let’s show me you mean what you say and are not going to hold up infrastructure,” said Rep. Jerry Sonneberg, a Republican representing Sterling.
Although scientists disagree over whether the mouse is genetically distinct it’s listed as endangered and as such protected.
Sonneberg has drafted a resolution on behalf of the state legislature asking Colorado’s congressional delegation to seek a waiver from the Endangered Species Act.
Weld County Commissioners passed a similar resolution and Gov. Hickenlooper is also pressing U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
FEMA said of 600 projects approved so far only five have needed review under the Endangered Species Act. Delays have been only a few days.
“I’m always concerned when the federal government says two to three days it will be two weeks or two months,” said Sonneberg.
In Weld County alone nearly 700 miles of roads were damaged by the floods.
The concern is any delays may stall repairs before spring runoff.
“We’ll have AG land that can’t produce, we’ll have people who won’t be able to move from Point A to Point B,” said Sonneberg.
When asked if anything short of a waiver would satisfy him, Sonneberg replied, “It would not simply because we’re talking about a mouse that may or may not be endangered over lives of people in Colorado and that doesn’t make sense to me.”
Congressman Cory Gardner and the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee- who has direct oversight over U.S. Fish and Wildlife- are sending a letter tomorrow to the agency asking that any reviews under the environmental law be expedited.
Regional Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Noreen Walsh said that unless a project jeopardizes the future existence of the mouse it will not be delayed. Some activities may negatively impact the mouse and experts will work to minimize that.