Subject: SW BIODIVERSITY ALERT
******* SOUTHWEST BIODIVERSITY ALERT #105 ***********
* 12/9/97 *
* SOUTHWEST CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY *
1. FIVE COASTAL CALIFORNIA SPECIES LISTED AS ENDANGERED-
ONLY 45 MORE TO GO
2. CITIZEN ACTION PAYS OFF-
TUCSON CITY COUNCIL SLOWS CITY INVOLVEMENT IN ARMY CORPS
PLAN TO DESTROY INNER CITY ARROYO
3. ARIZONA DAILY STAR FEATURES STORY ON THE SOUTHWEST CENTER
***** ***** ***** *****
FIVE COASTAL CALIFORNIA SPECIES LISTED AS ENDANGERED-
ONLY 45 MORE TO GO
On December 5, 1997, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the
Callippe silverspot butterfly and Behren's silverspot butterfly as
endangered and the Alameda whipsnake as threatened under the
Endangered Species Act. The Callippe silverspot is found at only
two sites on grasslands in the San Francisco Bay area. Behren's
silverspot is found on coastal terrace prairie habitat at one site
in southern Mendocino County. Both are threatened by development,
livestock grazing, collecting, and exotic plant invasions. The
Alameda whipsnake occurs in northern coastal scrub and chaparral
in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. It is threatened by fire
suppression, livestock grazing, and development.
On November 20, 1997, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the
Suisun thistle (Cirsium hydrophilim var. Hydorphilum) and Soft
bird's-beak (Cordylanthus mollis ssp. mollis) as endangered. Both
inhabit tidal marsh habitat in San Francisco Bay. They are
threatened by pollution, urbanization, excessive salinity, erosion,
and mosquito abatement programs.
The five are among a group of 95 species the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service has allowed to dwindle toward extinction by
stalling on final listing decisions. On May 13, 1997, the Southwest
Center for Biological Diversity informed the Fish and Wildlife
Service that it would sue to force the prompt listing of the 95
unless immediate action was taken to protect them. Since then,
the Service has scrambled to list 44 of the species as endangered.
51 species still remain unprotected and will likely be the subject
of an ESA suit by the end of the year.
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CITIZEN ACTION PAYS OFF-
TUCSON CITY COUNCIL SLOWS CITY INVOLVEMENT IN ARMY CORPS PLAN TO
DESTROY INNER CITY ARROYO
Following protests by the Southwest Center and residents of
largely Hispanic, Barrio San Antonio, the Tucson City Council
voted to temporarily withhold city funds for further work on an
Army Corps of Engineers plan to convert a large portion of
Arroyo Chico into a water detention basin network. The Corps
want to place the basins in Barrio San Antonio, a poor neibhorhood,
to provide flood control for wealthier downstream homeowners.
Though the detention basin would be dug 500 feet from a State
superfund site, the Army Corps of Engineers E.I.S. failed
to consider the impacts of toxic pollution on Barrio residents and
wildlife. The Southwest Center and Barrio San Antonio residents
Anna Acuna and Margaretta Rosenberg Ortiz have informed the Corps
that they will sue if necessary to stop the project. Maria Cadaxa,
vice president of the Barrio Association read a statement concluding
"We believe the natural state of the Arroyo Chico to be an
irreplaceable asset in the inner city ecology of Tucson. Not only is
it home to a variety of desert flora and fauna, it is the repository
of traditions and memories that stretch back generations. To change
the Arroyo Chico threatens the body and spirit of our barrio."
_____ _____ _____ _____
ARIZONA DAILY STAR FEATURES STORY ON THE SOUTHWEST CENTER
The following feature by Keith Bagwell on the Southwest Center
appeared in the Arizona Daily Star on Sunday, December 7, 1997
Pygmy Owl Champions Crusade for Humanity: Environmental group
winning war in court
A small environmental group that moved to town two years ago
has made a rare pygmy owl a threat to rapid growth northwest
This is the latest crusade waged by the Southwest Center for
Biological Diversity, a group of energetic folks in their 20s
or 30s on a fervent mission to save humanity from extinction.
The group believes vanishing wild species are precursors to a
decline of now-common plants and animals - including people.
The center moved to Tucson from Silver City, N.M., in 1995.
Using science and the courts, it forced the federal government
to list the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl as endangered.
Photo: Members of the Southwest Center for Biological
Diversity include from left: David Hogan, Kieran Suckling, Shane
Jimerfield, Peter Galvin, Megan Southern, Mike Rice and
Stephanie Buffum. The organization has filed 80 lawsuits and
won 37 of 47 rulings. It has 31 cases pending, and two cases
were dropped because of outside events.
Surveys since 1993 have found as many as a dozen of the
once-abundant little owls in Southern Arizona. Last year, there
were 10 - all spotted in northwest Tucson; eight of them were
seen in a 16-square-mile area of intense development west and
south of Oro Valley.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the owls' historic
habitat is 650 miles of Southwestern streams - 290 of those
miles lie in Arizona, including the Santa Cruz and Rillito rivers,
Tanque Verde Creek and Caņada del Oro Wash.
A Southwest Center lawsuit seeks to force Fish and Wildlife to
map the miles of streams and the northwest area as ``critical
habitat'' for the pygmy owl. That would further hamper construction
projects within the area.
The Southwest Center and its predecessors, with petitions and
lawsuits, have won Fish and Wildlife listing of several other rare
animals and plants as threatened or endangered, and subject to
One, the Southwestern willow flycatcher, keeps the Salt River
Project from completely filling Roosevelt Lake and could alter
operation of Mead's Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Key
flycatcher nesting areas are on the two lakes.
There is more: A Southwest Center lawsuit halted all logging in
Arizona and New Mexico national forests from August 1995 to
December 1996. Another blocks for now timber cuts and voids all
livestock grazing leases in the 11 forests in the two states.
Environmentalists are inspired to the point that national groups
now are helping the Southwest Center with pending lawsuits.
Those who profit from using federal lands and federal construction
permits are irate over the group's ability to force them to change
the way they do business, or at least to contemplate it.
``It's a big game for those folks,'' said Lewis Tenney, an owner
of Precision Pine and Timber Co. in Heber. ``They get up in the
morning and try to figure out how to make people's lives up here
--Run by physician--
The Southwest Center, whose roots go back to 1989, is run by
Phoenix emergency-room physician Robin Silver, 45, and 13
full-time staff members.
The center has 4,000 members - half of them Tucsonans - and
individual donors who together supplied it with nearly 45
percent of the $384,000 it used to operate in 1996.
The center also operates on grants from media mogul Ted Turner's
Turner Foundation and several other foundations, as well as
contract work for the Navajo Nation and environmental groups.
In addition to Silver, Southwest Center's founders are Peter
Galvin and Kieran Suckling, both 33. Galvin is from Framingham,
Mass., and Suckling has lived all over the world, moving with
his family while his father built electric power plants.
Suckling is director of the organization and Galvin is its
conservation biologist. Silver, working without pay, is
conservation chairman and manages the group's two-person
Phoenix office in his living room.
Little of the budget goes for payroll - the highest-paid
employee makes $1,000 a month, say Suckling and Galvin.
Several staff members live in the group's offices near Tucson
High Magnet School.
``We're committed to doing everything we can to protect public
lands,'' said Silver, a University of Arizona medical school
graduate who long has fought the UA's construction of telescopes
on the Pinaleņo Mountains' Mount Graham, near Safford.
``And it's going to get tougher as society is forced to confront
the consequences of its over-consumption,'' he said.
Galvin said the increase in species moving toward or facing
extinction is a warning that humans must change or face their
own eventual demise.
Solutions are not complex, he said. ``If there were firm plans
to protect their habitat, we wouldn't have these canaries in
the coal mine,''Galvin said.
--Land uses change--
Suckling said governments, from cities to the federal level,
change their land use readily for powerful economic interests.
``The governments really have no idea what they are doing or why
- in short they have no vision,'' he said. ``Through litigation
and petitioning, we're trying to force them to come to grips with
their lack of vision.''
Things won't change, Suckling said, ``without social stress. We're
trying to supply that stress.''
The Southwest Center and its predecessor, the Greater Gila
Biodiversity Project, have filed 35 petitions since 1989 with Fish
and Wildlife, asking it to list species as threatened or endangered,
or to map more protective critical habitat for already-listed species.
Fish and Wildlife approved 18 petitions and is reviewing 15 others.
The organization has filed 80 lawsuits and won 37 of 47 rulings.
It has 31 cases pending, and two cases were dropped because of
Silver, on behalf of the Maricopa Audubon Society in 1989, asked
Fish and Wildlife to list the Mexican spotted owl as threatened.
Galvin, then a Prescott College student, got a summer job that
year with the U.S. Forest Service, seeking Mexican spotted owls
in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona.
Suckling joined Galvin's survey crew. ``Kieran was very
aggressive, and we found a number of owls,'' Galvin said.
``We thought the Forest Service would protect them,'' he said.
``But we watched as they ignored their own regulations and logged
right up next to owl nests.''
The two worked on an owl survey crew in the Gila National
Forest in western New Mexico in 1990 and say they saw more abuses
of the Endangered Species Act. But they were unable to get national
environmental groups involved.
--Take on Forest Service--
``We decided we needed to form our own group, become
science-based, and take on the Forest Service to win,'' Suckling
said. ``We took a bio-regional approach and formed Greater Gila
The group's focus remains the watershed ecosystem of the Gila
River. It begins in Gila National Forest and picks up large
tributaries as it flows across Arizona to the Colorado River at
The Santa Cruz and San Pedro rivers are two Southern Arizona
tributaries to the Gila, and the Salt and Verde rivers flow into
it from Northern Arizona.
Galvin met Silver in the fall of 1989. When Galvin and Suckling
set up the Greater Gila Biodiversity Project in late 1990, `
`Robin said he'd pay the phone bill if we'd research the Mexican
spotted owl,'' Galvin said.
At a ranch near Luna, N.M., the pair spent two years researching
the owl and dozens of rare Gila ecosystem species.
--Had to do it--
``We thought it was something we had to do,'' Suckling said. ``We
saw a problem and went to work like we were trying to save a
child from a burning house.''
Said Galvin, ``The clock is always ticking for endangered species -
time is of the essence.''
The more they learned, the more they wanted to do. In 1992 they
moved to Silver City, seeking biologists and money.
But the New Mexico city lacked public support and research
resources that the growing group needed to carry on its work
Galvin, Suckling, Silver and others who had joined them changed
the name to Southwest Center and decided to move the headquarters.
In late 1995 they chose Tucson and moved.
Lumber-company owners, ranchers and developers are not fans of
the Southwest Center crew.
``Hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost, thanks to the
Southwest Center,'' said Tenney, of Precision Pine and Timber Co.
Tenney said his industry ``is not cutting all the old growth -
there's lots of it up here, all over the national forests.''
Galvin disagrees. ``Loggers have cut more than 90 percent of the
old-growth forests, and wildlife dependent on them can't afford
to lose more,'' he said.
Old-growth forests are home to many animal species, filter
stormwater, help purify the air and resist forest fire damage,
Other ecosystems of critical importance lie near Arizona's rivers,
which the Southwest Center hopes become free of cattle ranching.
--No cows on rivers--
``The biology is clear: We just can't have cows along rivers in
the Southwest,'' Suckling said. ``This is a fragile desert
without excess grass or water - and our rivers are trashed by
Suckling said the Southwest Center views ranching as probably
not viable in the Southwest.
Photo: A scene in the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation
Area; the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity focuses on
the watershed ecosystem of the Gila River, beginning
in theGila National Forest and including its tributaries.
``Some number of cows could be kept in uplands without major
damage, but is it economically feasible?'' he asked. ``We subsidize
ranching now to the tune of millions of dollars a year.''
``They say we can't have cattle and healthy river ecosystems -
that's baloney,'' said C.B. ``Doc'' Lane, director of grower affairs
for the Arizona Cattlemen's Association. ``We can manage cattle for
a healthy river wildlife habitat.''
The Southwest Center is ``abusing the Endangered Species Act for
whatever political ends it has,'' Lane said. He added that
extinction of species is natural evolution and it's pointless for
anyone to try to save them all.
Regional developers also believe the Southwest Center is bent on
destroying their businesses.
``It seems they are not only trying to stop growth, but to reverse
growth,'' said Alan Lurie, executive vice president of the Southern
Arizona Home Builders Association.
``It's a lifestyle issue,'' he said. ``They want to go back to the
days when you don't hear a voice, don't hear an automobile.''
The pygmy owl's listing as endangered means those proposing
construction requiring federal permits - and most large projects
need at least one - must follow Fish and Wildlife dictates on how
to protect the bird.
That ``affects transmission lines, roadways, swimming pools,
schools - all manner of things we do will be put to an absolute
stop,'' Lurie said.
Suckling said the Southwest Center is just trying to protect the
little owls. ``Circumstances led us to this collision course''
with Tucson developers, he said.
``But now we see 700,000 people who, due to sprawl into the desert,
have air pollution, traffic congestion and crime,'' Suckling said.
``We see 700,000 potential revolutionaries.''
Kieran Suckling firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive Director 520.623.5252 phone
Southwest Center for Biological Diversity 520.623.9797 fax
http://www.sw-center.org pob 710, tucson, az 85702-710