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June 5, 2007 > Massive condo development halts for Alabama Beach Mouse

Massive condo development halts for Alabama Beach Mouse

Submitted By Will Hodges

For the second time in five years, an Alabama federal court has halted two massive resort projects to protect the habitat of the endangered Alabama beach mouse. On May 31, Judge William Steele issued a preliminary injunction preventing any action that would result in killing the Alabama beach mouse until a final decision could be reached in the case.

The lawsuit, filed by the Sierra Club, Gulf Restoration Network, and Center for Biological Diversity, challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services finding that destruction of 40 acres of key beach mouse habitat for the resorts would not drive the species closer to extinction. A significant part of the habitat that would be destroyed is rare high-elevation habitat, necessary for the species to survive hurricanes. As little as 128 acres of this high-elevation habitat would remain above water in a Category 5 hurricane.

The district court found that the Fish and Wildlife Service had not explained why destruction of up to one-fifth of this habitat by the resorts, Gulf Highlands and Beach Club West, would not push the species closer to extinction.

Judge Steeles decision acknowledges how critical every remaining acre of high elevation habitat is to the endangered Alabama beach mouse, said Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of the Gulf Restoration Network.

In April of 2002 the same projects were enjoined by the Mobile federal court, based on the wildlife agency's failure to analyze impacts to the beach mouse. In that case the agency asked the court to allow additional analysis, a process that went on for almost five years.

When you get right down to it, said Peter Galvin of the Center for Biological Diversity, the problem is that most of the beach mouse's home has been paved over. Fort Morgan is the last stand for this species, and we need to keep the habitat that's left.

Alabama Sierra Club chair Maggie Wade Johnston said, The Alabama Sierra Club is thrilled with this decision. Our humanity can be judged by the care and respect we show to the smallest of creatures. Johnston also noted that the value of moving development back from the beach was proven during Hurricane Ivan. What's good for beach mouse habitat is good for reducing hurricane damage for people as well.

The preliminary injunction will remain in place until the court can make a final decision on the case, a process that is expected to take several months.

Center for Biological Diversity
Tucson, AZ
(520) 623-5252
www.biologicaldiversity.org/

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