NMT Withdraws Meadow Jumping Mouse Objections

Jerry Burton, Ron Loehman, and Art Vollmer of Trout Unlimited met with the SFNF Supervisor, Maria Garcia, her Deputy, Joe Norell, and Alan Setzer, the acting ranger on the Jemez District at the SFNF offices in Santa Fe on May 24.  The FS requested the meeting to address our objections to the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse (NMMJM) decision and to try to convince us to withdraw those objections.  We discussed the jumping mouse issue with them for more than three hours and hammered out the agreement.  The New Mexico Trout Board accepted the agreement by email vote.  In my (Ron Loehman’s) opinion it’s an overall win for us, the mouse, and the Cebolla and it is a good outcome from the effort everyone put in to address the original proposal.

Here are the reasons your Board voted to accept the agreement.

  1. The NMMJM is in a much more precarious position than was indicated in the environmental assessment.  NMT members are responsible users and visitors, but some of the general public is not, and even limited damage from recreational access might be enough to drive the NMMJM to extinction.
  2. The FS agreed to use adaptive management with actual scientific monitoring of the mice and their habitat, which would allow for easing restrictions on angling if there is sufficient mouse recovery.
  3. The FS agreed to use NMT and TU volunteers for habitat improvement projects to speed recovery.
  4. Not in the written agreement, but agreed in principle, was to set up a program for volunteers (NMT and TU) to monitor habitat quality and report the observations to the FS. (We will develop a plan to recruit volunteers, who will get some training in the kind of data the FS needs.  We will put an app on our NMT website where individuals can enter their observations after any trip up along the Cebolla.  No one will have to commit to any particular schedule, but with enough volunteers we should get pretty good coverage.)

Ron Loehman,
Conservation chair

 

Rio Cebolla Work Project – June 4

Our annual member BBQ will be held on Saturday, June 4 in conjunction with a work project on the Rio Cebolla. We have worked with Santa Fe National Forest staff to identify a three-part project that will provide important benefits to the Rio Cebolla.

  1. Planting willow cuttings along the Cebolla inside one of the areas fenced off as NM Meadow Jumping Mouse habitat.
  2. Building vehicle barriers to protect stream banks that are eroding sediment into the Cebolla.
  3. Removing campfire rings inside the newly-constructed vehicle barriers that are too close to the stream and are an additional source of stream pollution.
    We will divide into three teams, with volunteers choosing which of the three tasks they want to work on. Tools will be supplied. Forest Service staff will provide necessary instruction.  No special skills required of volunteers.

For further information contact New Mexico Trout Conservation Chairman: ronloehman@gmail.com

RSVP before Wednesday, June 1 and NM Trout will provide you with a BBQ lunch.

This is for members, so if your membership has lapsed, please renew now!

Details:

We will meet at 9:00 AM immediately to the north of the private property boundary where the Rio Cebolla flows under Forest Road 376. This spot is about 15 miles north of the Gilman Tunnels.  A map is below.

Bring gloves and a water bottle and wear sturdy shoes, long sleeves, and a hat. At noon we will break to enjoy a lunch of Rudy’s BBQ provided for NM Trout members.

Driving directions: Take I-25 north to Bernalillo, left on Highway 550 to San Ysidro, right on Highway 4 through village of Canon, left on State Road 485 about a mile past the high school.  Continue on SR 485, which becomes FR 376, for about another 5 miles to the Gilman Tunnels. The workshop site is about another 15 miles north on FR 376. Total distance from the Big I is about 75 miles, driving time a little over an hour and a half.

For further information contact New Mexico Trout Conservation Chairman, Ron Loehman.

Featured image by Ron Loehman.

sfnf-map

Meadow Jumping Mouse Plan Locks Out Anglers

nm meadow jumping mouseThe Forest Service has issued the final Environmental Assessment (EA) of its plan to protect NM Meadow Jumping Mouse (MJM) habitat along mountain meadow streams in the Jemez Mountains. The final plan bans non-consumptive recreation (as well as grazing) from MJM habitat for at least 10 years.

Background

In 2014, the Meadow Jumping Mouse was listed as an endangered species.  Its endangered status is attributable to destruction of its mountain meadow stream habitat by years of excessive cattle grazing on Forest Service grazing allotments.  Even though there is no evidence for damage to MJM habitat from non-consumptive recreation, such as fishing, bird watching, hiking, etc., the Forest Service plan lumps those activities with cattle grazing for a complete ban of all activities from MJM habitat for 10 years.  NM Trout objected to punishing non-consumptive recreation for the damage cause by cattle grazing, but our comments were not acknowledged.

What Now?

Individuals and organizations that submitted comments on the Draft EA can submit written objections to the Final EA by May 6, 2016.  The link to the complete Jumping  Mouse EA with instructions on how and where to file objections is: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=48561. NMT has reiterated its concern that the planned approach is too restrictive, as it bans activities that have no apparent impact on the MJM habitat.

Ron Loehman, Conservation Chair
From the April/May 2016 Newsletter

Rio Guadalupe Cleanup

guadalupe-cleanup-2016aTwenty-one New Mexico Trout members turned out on Saturday morning, April 9, 2016 for our annual trash cleanup along FR 376 above the Gilman Tunnels. That road parallels the Rio Guadalupe, which is our home water and one of the best brown trout fisheries in New Mexico. FR 376 is also the most heavily traveled of all the roads on the Santa Fe National Forest and it receives about 100,000 visitors in a typical season. Unfortunately, all those visitors leave a lot of trash over the course of a year. Doing these annual cleanups is one way we can express our thanks for the wonderful trout fishing opportunities the Rio Guadalupe affords while we help maintain it in a state that we like to visit

This year New Mexico Trout volunteers picked up 48 large bags of trash, and removed 16 fire rings. In addition, the trash haul included three tires, a pair of leather boots, a huge truck exhaust pipe, and an abandoned 5-gallon porta potty. With the excellent turnout we were able to sweep the entire corridor by noon, which allowed us to break for a club-provided lunch at Porter’s Landing.

guadalupe-cleanup-2016bThe locked gate above the Gilman tunnels was scheduled to be opened on April 15th, so the first visitors, at least, will see a clean corridor without the usual litter. Phyllis Martinez, of the Jemez District, and Cecil Rich, Fisheries Biologist for the Santa Fe National Forest, also participated and both expressed their thanks for our efforts.

Ron Loehman, Conservation Chairman
Photos by Seth Nodelman

Funding for New Mexico Conservation in President’s Budget

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has provided funding to help protect some of New Mexico’s special places through the acquisition of land and conservation easements to protect national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails, and BLM sites, support for local and state park needs, protection of critical wildlife habitat, watersheds and recreational access, and conservation of working farms, ranches and forestlands that enhance local economies. The LWCF is funded at no cost to the taxpayers from a portion of the revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling.

jemez-rocks.jpgCongressional authorization for the LWCF lapsed at the end of September due to significant GOP pushback led by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop of Utah. Democrats, however, were able to get the Fund reauthorized for three years with a 2016 annual budget of $450 million in the December omnibus bill.

U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich applauded President Obama’s announcement that he will work to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The president’s fiscal 2017 budget calls for a combination of $475 million in discretionary funding and $425 million in mandatory funding for the LWCF.

Funding through the LWCF has helped conserve special places from the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Bernalillo County to the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte national monuments in Southern and Northern New Mexico.

The president’s budget proposal also identifies specific New Mexico funding priorities for FY17, including acquisition of inholdings and land to expand or enhance the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, Rio Grande del Norte, the Continental Divide Trail, the Sabinoso Wilderness, and part of the Burnt Corn Pueblo, one of 24 sites included in the 2004 Galisteo Basin Cultural Sites Protection Act.

Conservation Projects for 2016

Ron Loehman,
Conservation Chairman

Our conservation projects on public lands require permission from and collaboration with the responsible land management agency. Consequently, project schedules and locations sometimes change because of changing agency priorities or other constraints. Most of our projects are on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF). Typically, we work with them early in the year to decide on a list of mutually-acceptable projects and dates. Most of the time the projects are held as scheduled. When there are changes we will notify the membership through Constant Contact e-mailings and with notices posted on our website.

conservation-project2015a.jpg

2015 Conservation Workshop

There are two significant happenings on the SFNF that will affect our volunteer projects over the next few years. The first was the 2014 endangered species listing of the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse (NMMJM). In Fall 2014 the SFNF issued a closure order on the meadow portions of the Rio Cebolla and Rio San Antonio, enforced by the encircling barbed wire fencing. Now the SFNF is proposing a permanent steel pipe fence to replace the barbed wire. Mouse recovery will depend on improvement of riparian habitat along those streams. So far, the SFNF has not disclosed any plans for how they will do any restoration, beyond building the fence. Once they get through all their planning, which could take a long time, I expect that there will be a lot of possible project work, which may provide volunteer opportunities.

conservation-project2015b.jpg

2015 Conservation Cleanup

The second happening is the completion and approval of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Southwest Jemez Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project, a mouthful that is usually referred to as the CFLRP. The CFLRP is a funded, agency collaboration that encompasses the whole west side of the Jemez to do all kinds of work to improve forest and stream health and function. With the EIS approval, significant funding has been freed up and projects will soon be underway. One of the first will be stream improvements on the lower Jemez downstream of Jemez Springs.   As of now, the work will be done by contractors, but there may be opportunities for us at a later time.

The 2016 Volunteer Conservation Project Schedule:

April 9 – Rio Guadalupe corridor cleanup

June 4 – Stream bank restoration, willow planting, and annual stream side BBQ on Rio Guadalupe and Cebolla

July 23 – Continuation of June 4 project

August 20 – Riparian fencing near San Antonio campground

Jumping Mouse News

Ron Loehman,
Conservation Chair

nm meadow jumping mouseIn January 2016, the Santa Fe National Forest issued a draft Environmental Analysis for the New Mexico Jumping Mouse Critical Habitat Protection Project. The closure addresses the endangered species listing for the NM Meadow Jumping Mouse (NMMJM). This closure applies to all users, including anglers and birdwatchers.

Critical habitat for the jumping mouse includes what once was the best brown trout fishery in the state. The stream has made a remarkable recovery since cattle were excluded in mid-2014. Complete closure penalizes anglers and other non-consumptive users for damage caused by cattle

New Mexico Trout’s analysis of the plan is summarized below:

  • The NMMJM is endangered because cattle grazing in riparian areas has destroyed its habitat.
  • Recreational uses – such as angling, bird watching and nature photography – have not caused this habitat loss.
  • There is no scientific justification for locking out non-consumptive recreational users.

The NMT Board of Directors provided comment on this environmental assessment and proposed plan in a letter to the Santa Fe National Forest Ranger.

More information is available on our website:  meadow jumping mouse and NMT response.