I’m not all that concerned about the protection of this particular mouse, nor do I want to enter into the ongoing debate about animal rights, but this piece of news from Colorado concerns me for its wider implications.

A committee in the state House will meet next week to determine whether the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse should continue to be protected by the Endangered Species Act. At hand is the question of whether the species is distinct enough to warrant special protections.

The real topic, though, is the 31,000 acres of land in Colorado and Wyoming currently designated as critical habitat for the rodents. Removing the mouse from the endangered species list would open that chunk of land to development in a state besieged by rapid expansion into wetlands.

Interesting, too, that the hearing comes just days after the EPA announced fines imposed on companies who had damaged wetlands included in the meadow mouse’s protected land during the construction of a hotel.

The Denver Post is on target in its editorial:

Growth has brought development that destroys streamside habitat. There has been more than a 50 percent loss of wetlands in Colorado since 1980. Between 1997 and 2002, the state lost 1.26 million acres of farm land to development. The threat to Colorado’s biodiversity is all too real.

The mouse issue has been controversial in the state for quite some time, and next week’s hearing has been not-so-subtly tagged “Abuses of the Endangered Species Act: The So-Called Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse.”