Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

For Immediate Release: March 2, 2006

Contact: Dr. Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity 602-246-4170

Center wins lawsuit against Department of Defense
to protect San Pedro River

Fort Huachuca forced to reevaluate impacts from on- and off-post actions

Phoenix, Ariz.—Fort Huachuca announced yesterday that it would revisit its obligations to protect the San Pedro River. In an abrupt about-face, the Army has announced that it will reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the Fort on June 1, 2005 for the Army’s failure to consult on impacts to the river and endangered species resulting from new missions and population increases in the region owing to the Fort’s presence.

“Fort Huachuca has expanded its activities greatly since its last evaluation in 2002. These activities have increased the groundwater deficit that jeopardizes the San Pedro,” said Dr. Robin Silver, board chair of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Off-post unmitigated, Fort-fueled growth continues without regard for the River. The Fort has done pretty well with water conservation on-post; however, off-post the Fort has received essentially no help from Sierra Vista or Cochise County. The Fort must now provide more mitigation or downsize.”

In the 2002 Biological Opinion (BO), the Fort was charged with mitigating the overdraft groundwater use of 54 percent of the population in the Upper San Pedro River Sierra Vista sub-watershed. The Fort also agreed to not expand by more than 500 people through 2011. Since that time, the Fort has added or committed to adding more than 2,500 people. With the addition of those troops, their families, contractors, and the other people that have or will move to the community because of the Fort’s presence, the overall population increase using standard multipliers would be nearly 12,000 people.

New information has become available that also triggers the need for reinitiating consultation: recent estimates of the groundwater deficit are double the amount estimated in the 2002 BO; groundwater pumping for the Fort and City of Sierra Vista has been found to intercept water that would otherwise contribute to the base flow of the river; the San Pedro went dry for the first time on record last year; and surviving locations of the endangered Huachuca water umbel, a plant that relies on the perennial flow of the San Pedro, have subsequently been reduced.

“Significant new data has come to light since the 2002 Biological Opinion. The survival of the San Pedro River and the rich plant and wildlife communities that depend on it are fully in the hands of the Fort and off-post community’s coming to grips with their overuse of groundwater. The Fort’s decision to reinitiate could help lead to changes needed to avoid a dry riverbed,” said Silver.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit conservation organization with over 18,000 members dedicated to the protection of imperiled species and their habitats.


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