Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
places of western North America
April 11, 2001
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS WIN APPEAL OF GRAZING IN RINCON WILDERNESS
The Center for Biological Diversity has won an appeal of the livestock grazing permit on the Happy Valley allotment in the Coronado National Forest, securing protection for several endangered species and protecting 3,900 acres of wilderness in the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson, Arizona. Endangered species that would have been affected by livestock operations include the Mexican Spotted Owl, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, American Peregrine Falcon, Mearn's Quail and the Lesser Long-Nosed Bat.
Part of the 12,000 acre allotment falls within the rugged Rincon Wilderness in the Rincon Mountains. In January, the Coronado National Forest issued a decision to bring cattle back onto the allotment after several years of rest and recovery. The decision included construction of new water developments in the Rincon Wilderness. The Center filed an administrative appeal claiming that the decision violated the Wilderness Act. The Center was joined in the appeal by the Rincon Group of the Sierra Club and the Sky Islands Alliance.
On April 6th, James Gladden, Appeals Officer in the Forest Service Regional office in Albuquerque, agreed with the appeal claim and reversed the Coronado National Forest's grazing decision, stressing that the decision "did not include sufficient information to determine if the proposed action...is consistent with the Wilderness Act."
The three groups were pleased with the success of the appeal but at the same time remain concerned that environmental issues have not been fully resolved.
"As well as the Wilderness impacts, there are other issues that were raised in the appeal that call into question whether livestock grazing is a suitable use of Happy Valley at all, particularly when you consider the impacts to endangered species, game animals, soils and water quality. If the Forest Service tries to reissue any decision that still includes livestock grazing in Happy Valley, we will be raising those concerns once again," said Martin Taylor, coordinator of the Grazing Reform Program at the Center for Biological Diversity.
"This is a precedent-setting decision by the Forest Service regional office to recognize the inappropriateness of development in wilderness areas, and the resulting impacts to protected species" observed David Hodges of the Tucson-based Sky Islands Alliance.
"We are pleased that wilderness protection won out in this case. But this is only one of many cases where livestock grazing goes on in Wilderness areas throughout the Southwest. The Forest Service is proposing similar developments elsewhere in the Rincon Wilderness," said David Barnes, Wilderness Chairman for the Sierra Club- Rincon Group also in Tucson.
The permit for the Happy Valley allotment is held by the Cholla Group, whose ranch operation includes a high-priced real estate subdivision called "Rancho La Joya" in the heart of the Little Rincon Mountains. The three groups also expressed concern that renewal of the grazing permit to the Cholla Group could help to fuel this subdivision project, which is being promoted as a partnership in a "working cattle ranch". The subdivision is strongly opposed by many Cascabel area residents who do not want to see what some have called "leapfrog suburbanization" in what is now a remote and wild area.