Of (Preble) Mice and Men: The Making of a Non-Scandal

Preble mouse Colorado

Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse. That’s a long name to put on a birth certificate.

This is the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse. He/she looks harmless enough, but last week it inadvertently gave cause for three Republicans to go, well, mouse-shit crazy. The mouse itself isn't all that interesting (unless you're into that sort of thing), but the non-scandal that played out over its status as an Endangered Species is a fascinating look at how quickly some politicians can get moving when they think there's an opportunity to score some mindless political points.

This is also a story of how quickly those same politicians shut up and move on once their "scandal" proves misplaced.

Our story begins with a harmless news release that CBS4 in Denver turned into a serious story about flood recovery efforts. The CBS4 report caused Rep. Cory Gardner (CO-4), state Sen. Greg Brophy, and state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg to collectively go crazy about liberals and Endangered Species and anything else that Democrats might have done wrong. It just wasn't true.

Here's a look at the CBS4 story from Feb. 4, titled, "'Endangered' Mouse Could Delay Flood Recovery":

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning that many flood repair projects could be delayed because they are in an endangered mouse’s habitat.

The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse is listed as a threatened species, which means it and its habitat are protected by federal law. Its habitat lies along rivers and stream beds where flood repairs are underway.

The news upset Colorado State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, who represents many of the flooded communities. He sent a letter to Colorado’s congressional delegation asking it to intervene saying the federal government has put a mouse ahead of Colorado families.

“We’re holding up the ability to redo safe drinking water, to rebuild sewage treatment facilities so we can keep sewage out of the rivers, trying to have a safe environment because of a mouse,” said Sonnenberg.

According to him, communities have to delay repairs after FEMA issued a warning that local governments could lose federal funding if they violate the Endangered Species Act. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner Preble mouse flood recovery

Not pictured: Rep. Sonnenberg and Sen. Brophy running around with their pants aflame

Did you happen to catch the spot where this story went off the rails (if you didn't, take a look at the sentences in bold)? "According to [Sonnenberg]" sounds like the title of a convoluted Indie movie, but for some reason CBS4 thought that state Rep. Sonnenberg would be the ideal person to explain the ins and outs of FEMA policy. Congressman Gardner was all too pleased to ride to the rescue. Here's his press release "demanding" immediate relief from the mighty Preble:

Rep. Cory Gardner (CO-04) took immediate action after it became apparent that flood recovery efforts in Colorado could be slowed significantly due to the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse.

Ooohhh…"immediate action!" But before sending his "immediate action" letter to FEMA and issuing a press release, perhaps Gardner's office should have checked with the people who actually do know what is going on. On Feb. 5, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and FEMA issued a joint press release with a pretty unambiguous lede:

Recent news accounts suggesting the Endangered Species Act and the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse are delaying flood recovery projects in Colorado are inaccurate. [Pols emphasis]

From unambiguous lede we move quickly to unambiguous quote:

“We are working very closely with FEMA and other partners to make sure important flood recovery projects proceed on time while ensuring no harm occurs to species listed under the ESA,” said Noreen Walsh, Regional Director for the Mountain-Prairie Region. “But let me be clear: the Preble’s and other federally listed species have not, and will not, delay flood recovery efforts in Colorado.” [Pols emphasis]

Not only are the USFWS and FEMA clearly stating that the Preble will NOT impact flood recovery efforts…they are unequivocally saying that the Preble "and other federally listed species" have had ZERO impact on flood recovery efforts thus far. In other words, THIS IS ALL HORSESH*T.

So how did all this happen?

It began with a FEMA "Backgrounder" from Feb. 3 (which CBS4, amazingly, included in its coverage) that outlined bullet points about the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse and flood repair and mitigation efforts. The point of the "Backgrounder," as you can see, is simply to outline some federal policies which may or may not be applicable in flood recovery efforts. We assume that this is the line that really freaked everyone out:

The legally required reviews may cause some delay in projects undertaken in the Preble's mouse habitat.

Note that the "Backgrounder" isn't warning about any problems — it is merely stating options for dealing with Endangered Species such as the mighty Preble mouse.

If CBS4 Denver has added a correction to its story, it isn't evident online. Gardner's office, meanwhile, just moved on to the next "crisis," with Gardner seeking answers on a propane shortage, or something.

The sad commentary on this whole affair is that a handful of reporters joined with a few of our elected public officials and chose "scandal" over "information." Gardner sent a letter to Daniel Ashe, director of the USFWS, "demanding" that something be done about the Preble mouse, though he probably could have just called someone at the USFWS and then issued a press release with actual clarifying information instead.

Of course, this could have all been handled differently if CBS4 hadn't gone to Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg to explain a federal policy that he obviously knew nothing about — and called someone at FEMA and USFWS to elaborate instead. CBS4 even seems to have understood that they were pushing a non-story, judging by one lonely sentence at the end of the original story:

A Weld County commissioner said he asked FEMA two months ago about the mouse and was told it wouldn’t be a problem.

And it is still not a problem.


31 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    …Jerry also thinks there is a War on Rural Colorado.  Who'd have thunk?  I like Jerry a lot – he's a smart guy – and my Representative.  But statements and actions by him like this are beneath every damn one of his constituents who have a brain. Let's stop this useless BS – and start talking about real problems and opportunities on the eastern plains.  As Kramer would say, "Come on, Jerry…."

    As for my Congressman – he's perfected the art of hit and run.  He's a master Snipe Hunter.

  2. horseshit GOP front grouphorseshit GOP front group says:

    I would like to issue an open apology to anyone who was offended last week by my suggestion that we shove an Obamaphone up Andrew Carnegies asshole.  That was wrong.

    Upon second thought, maybe the job can be done better with a Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse. They're endangered, and we could give a gaseous but somewhat safe environment for at least one of them.

    Again, my apologies.

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      Oh, those dreaded Obamaphones.  The idea of subsidized phone service originated under the Ronald Reagan administration after the breakup of AT&T. The program is paid for by telecommunications companies through the nonprofit Universal Service Administrative Company, not through taxpayer revenue.  It was the Bush White House that instituted the program and it continues today.

      What next? Allegations the President is punishing Catholics for opposing Obamacare? Oh, wait…






      • Andrew Carnegie says:

        Michael, It is paid for by people who pay for phone service.  The phone companies collect it from their customers.  You pay for it.  I pay for it.  

        It's cost has gone up dramatically and there is rampant fraud in cities all over the country because regulations intended to limit it are ignored.  Carlos Sim, the Mexican billionaire has done very well by the program.  People who buy telephone services, not so well.

        • ClubTwitty says:

          It's cost has gone up dramatically

          Show your work troll.  Or is that something else you pulled out of your nether region?  

        • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

          In addition to "Obamaphones", the fund also supports high cost, low income, schools and libraries – and Rural Health Care.  So what's your point?  I happen to like the fact that high cost service areas in rural Colorado are subsidized.  If that means I'm contributing to a fleet of Obamaphones so my hospital can afford telemedicine, so be it. 

        • roccoprahn says:

          That's Mr. Bowman to you, skeezix.

          And yes, show your work. This bullshit of you, negev, moderatus, and other conserve nimrods putting out crap with no basis of fact behind it is getting old.

          Question……………….When you get this stuff from limbaugh, beck, caplis, boortz, o'reilly, and the clowns at KNUS, does it ever occur to you that they're not citing sources? 

          When you repeat shit that can't be substantiated, you look like what you are…..a gullable rube.


          • Andrew Carnegie says:

            Rocco, I thought you were going to admit your mistake the last time I educated you.  Here you go (it is from that right wing paper, the Washington Post):

            “The program has nearly tripled in size from $800 million in 2009 to $2.2 billion per year in 2012,” the senior Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee wrote in a March 26 letter to the Democratic minority. “American taxpayers — and we as their elected representatives — need to know how much of this growth is because of waste, fraud and abuse.”


            • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

              Now if we could only get the same level of focus from the House majority on  corporate subsidies.  In the time it took me to post this comment Exxon raked in about $9k in subsidies.  I stopped falling for that, "Look!  Over there –> Squirrel" a long time ago.

              This is a good program for a lot of reasons.  Like all government programs, they get abused.  I'm happy they've cleaned things up – that means more money in the pot for the other programs I care a lot about.


            • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

              Without readng any of the propagada you sight, my bet is that a whole lot of people living in the hinterlands are getting not just basic phone service but at least dial-up internet connections. If people thought the "last mile" was costly for telephones that pales in comparison to even wired internet. At one time internet service could have been considered a frill, but these days, especially for rural populations, it can be a literal lifeline. 

              • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

                Opps, the "propaganda" remark was for A.C., MichaelBowman, not you.blush

                • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

                  …and the propoganda perpetuated by Rep. Sonnenberg and my Congressman.  Let's take (once again) this bs notion there's a "war" on rural Colorado.  Of all people in the entire Colorado House, Jerry's home county (Logan) has benefitted more from the renewable mandates than any other county in the state. 

                  There is now over a billion dollars worth of wind projects on the Peetz table – the new job and tax base that came with that development has transformed Logan County and the city of Sterling in a very positive way.  Without having to raise a dime of capital by local government – these projects are made possible by the energy purchases of Xcel's mostly-urban consumers.  (and the very mandates that Rep. Sonnenberg, Gardner has House Rep and Brophy as state senator would have a 100% record of opposing).

                  Those dreaded, front-range liberals are the ones paying the local taxes and supporting those rural jobs via the wind farms. 

                  Let's stop demonizing urban constituents as though there is an "us v. them".  Instead of pretending there is a war – and perpetuating that lie through campaign rhetoric – let's put our big boy pants on and figure out how every rural county in Colorado can sit at this table of enormous benfits and opportunities.

                  Seriously, enough is enough.

  3. ClubTwitty says:

    The Koch-funded astroturf shop Americans for Plutocracy was all over this like congressmen at a lobbyist luncheon, decrying the environmentalists, the gubmint, bureaucrats and the demoncrat party.    Like the TV station, and Rep. Gardner (R-grandstander), I doubt anyone will ever see a correction, the adult thing to do when making a mistake.  Caught out in a lie, as is SOP for AFP, they have just moved onto this week's lie…  which you can catch up on by reading our local trolls.  

  4. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    Washington, DC has been very kind to he Gardner household.  Don't hold your breath for a "correction". 


  5. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    This was the first I'd heard of any phone service program, so you know I had to look it up. Lifeline provides a no-frills basic phone line for households up to 135% of Federal poverty guideline.

    Many times, schools want to connect with parents and guardians of low-income kids, but can't,  because there is no phone service.

    So Lifeline is a Federal program. Colorado phone consumers are no longer subsidizing Low Income Telephone Assistance Program  People who are poor and need phone service are expected to get in touch with the Federal government. No word on whether the isolated seniors and homeless people who used to have phones are doing OK.

    Pleased and proud, Andrew C?

  6. rattus says:

    My only regret is that I don't live in Gardner's district (although that's a lie… I wouldn't dream of living in such a political shithole) so that I had the opportunity to help vote him out of office.

Leave a Reply

Comment from your Facebook account

You may comment with your Colorado Pols account above (click here to register), or via Facebook below.