Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
places of western North America
Contacts: Martin Taylor,
Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 623 5252, ext 307
SUIT FILED TO ENFORCE PROTECTIONS FOR SIX ENDANGERED SPECIES ON 55 NATIONAL FOREST GRAZING ALLOTMENTS
The Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson Office, and the Santa Fe-based Forest Guardians have filed a complaint against the United States Forest Service in the Federal District Court in Phoenix, alleging multiple failures to implement mandatory protections from livestock grazing for six threatened and endangered species.
Both organizations previously sued the Forest Service in 1997 to stop harm to several endangered species by livestock grazing on hundreds of grazing allotments throughout the southwest. Forest Service biologists confirmed that grazing on many of these allotments would harm the species. In 1999 the Fish and Wildlife Service issued several biological opinions setting forth mandatory restrictions on grazing for many of these allotments so as to reduce harm to the species.
After conducting a year long investigation, the two environmental groups recently found that the Forest Service had failed to observe these restrictions on 55 grazing allotments. The allotments cover 633,870 acres on the Coronado, Coconino, and Tonto National Forests. 53 of the allotments are in the Coronado National Forest. The two groups claim that by failing to monitor and observe grazing restrictions, the three National Forests are in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
"There is a chronic lack of follow-up in endangered species protection" said Dr Martin Taylor, coordinator of the Grazing Reform Program for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Two years after restrictions were put in place, the Forest Service has failed to implement them on these allotments, and six species still face extinction as a result" he concluded.
The investigation uncovered failures to remove livestock when grazing exceeded established limits and, more commonly, failure even to monitor for livestock impacts as required by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Kirsten Stade of the Forest Guardians said that: "If the Forest Service does not have enough staff to administer the grazing program, they should not be issuing grazing permits and allowing this damage to go on the way it has."
Over 13,000 cows roam these parcels of public land every year, causing untold damage to the habitat needed for the survival of many threatened and endangered species.
Three fish species, the endangered Gila Topminnow and Razorback Sucker, and the threatened Little Colorado Spinedace are harmed by livestock damage to soils, streambanks and streamside vegetation, causing erosion, high sediment load and impaired water quality. The Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl is harmed by livestock destruction of the grasses and shrubs that provide food and protective cover for the lizards, rodents and small birds that the owl hunts.The endangered Lesser Long-Nosed Bat is harmed when cattle eat the flower stalks of agaves and trample baby agaves and saguaros, major nectar sources for this species. The endangered Huachuca Water Umbel is a semi-aquatic plant native to the San Pedro and Santa Cruz rivers that is harmed by livestock trampling and degraded stream flow conditions.
The two groups are being represented in this action by the law firm of Kenna and Hickox of Durango, Colorado. The case number CIV 01-2009 PHX JWS has been assigned to Judge John Sedwick in Anchorage, Alaska due to the Arizona Court's overloaded docket.