CLOUDCROFT, N.M. (AP) — The Lincoln N[auth] ational Forest has decided to close the Mauldin Spring area near Cloudcroft in an effort to protect an endangered mouse.
Forest officials announced the closure order Wednesday, saying it has a responsibility to prevent any damage to the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse’s habitat under the Endangered Species Act. The closure will be in effect until Nov. 30.
The order means people and livestock must stay out of the Mauldin Springs riparian area along Wills Canyon. Officials say the public can use existing trails outside of the closed area.
Ranchers, elected officials and others in New Mexico have been critical of the U.S. Forest Service following disputes on the Lincoln and Santa Fe forests over access to public land and water rights.
Critics are questioning whether the latest decision violates federal law.