Subject: SW BIODIVERSITY ALERT
******* SOUTHWEST BIODIVERSITY ALERT #116 ***********
* 2/3/98 *
* SOUTHWEST CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY *
1. BLM ORDERS CATTLE, ORVs OUT OF GILA RIVER CONSERVATION AREA
THIRD BLM CATTLE EVICTION IN SIX MONTHS
2. SUIT FILED TO LIST 44 CALIFORNIA SPECIES AS ENDANGERED
3. COURT ENJOINS STEVEN SPIELBERG DEVELOPMENT...SORT OF
4. WASHINGTON POST: SW IS GROUND ZERO FOR E.S.A. ACTIVISM-
TIMBER, GRAZING, REAL ESTATE BARONS MISERABLE
***** ***** ***** *****
BLM ORDERS CATTLE, ORVs OUT OF GILA RIVER CONSERVATION AREA-
THIRD BLM CATTLE EVICTION IN SIX MONTHS
On 1/30/97, the Safford District of the BLM ordered all livestock off 38
miles of the Gila River and Bonita Creek running through the Gila Box
National Riparian Conservation Area in southeast Arizona. It also closed
the area to ORV use. The Southwest Center and the Sierra Club sued the BLM
in 1997 for refusing to finalize a Congressionally mandated management
plan. The BLM stalled on the plan for four years because it realized that
removing cattle and ORVs was the only reasonable decision it could make.
Unfortunately, the BLM has chosen to allow continued grazing in the uplands
of the conservation area. This is a direct violation of a 1990 federal law
which only permits actions which "further" the conservation and protection
of riparian ecosystems. To make continued cattle grazing possible, the BLM
will have to spend $250,000 of taxpayers money to install 30 miles of fence
and numerous pipelines and stock ponds. The suit was argued by Ted
Zukowski of the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies (Denver).
A previous Southwest Center suit resulted in recent BLM decisions to remove
cattle from allotments on the Gila River below the conservation area, and
from prime pygmy owl habitat northeast of Tucson.
SUIT FILED TO LIST 44 CALIFORNIA SPECIES AS ENDANGERED
The Southwest Center and the California Native Plant Society filed suit
against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for refusing to make final
decisions on whether to list 44 imperiled California species as endangered.
All the species have been proposed for listing, many have been stalled since
the mid 1970s while they continue to decline. Last September, the Fish &
Wildlife Service declared five species extinct. All were candidates for
listing, none made it on the list before going extinct.
The suit was filed in a San Diego federal court on 2/2/98 by Jay Touchton
of Earthlaw (Denver). It has sparked media stories across the U.S. high-
lighting the Fish & Wildlife Service's cronic refusal to list species as
endangered unless ordered to so by the courts. The Southwest Center alone
has won 23 lawsuits forcing the agency to propose or list species since
COURT BLOCKS SPIELBERG MEGA-DEVELOPMENT...SORT OF
On 1/26/98, Wetlands Action Network, the Southwest Center and CALPIRG
filed suit against Steven Spielberg, his developer friends, and the
Army Corps of Engineers for destroying the habitat of 10 endangered
species which stand in the way of their movie study/mega development.
At our request, the judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
barring further bulldozing within the wetland. He made the TRO
dependent, however, on our putting up a $50,000 bond. This is highly
unusual in a public interest environmental suit.
Since we don't have the money, we will appeal the bond requirement
to the 9th circuit court of appeals.
WASHINGTON POST: SW IS GROUND ZERO FOR E.S.A. ACTIVISM- TIMBER, GRAZING,
REAL ESTATE BARONS MISERABLE
On 2/1/97, the Washington Post ran a half page story on the "fusillade
of dozens of legal actions...seeking greater protections for everything
from large mammals like the jaguar to obscure insects like the Thorne's
hairstreak butterfly." Despite its horribly anti-environmental title,
the story is pretty good. It concludes:
"The Southwest Center's litigation record would be the envy of many
law firms. In a little more than four years, the organization with just a
dozen or so employees working at near minimum wage has filed 85 lawsuits
and endangered species listing petitions and won more than three-quarters
of those that have been completed. In the process, it has made life
miserable for scores of bureaucrats as well as the ranching, timber and
real estate interests it has opposed."
Full story below.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Washington Post, Sunday, February 1, 1998
In Desert Southwest, Vigorous Species Act Endangers a Way of Life
By Tom Kenworthy
BLUE, Ariz.—Ranchers along the Blue River on Arizona's eastern border
are reeling from cutbacks of up to 80 percent in the number of cattle they
can graze in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest because of a tiny fish
called the loach minnow and other threatened species. Home builders in
Tucson's booming northern suburbs are facing higher costs and possible
building restrictions because of the endangered pygmy owl. The timber
industry in Arizona and New Mexico is barely hanging on, in part because
of the Mexican spotted owl.
Throughout the desert Southwest, government efforts to enforce the
Endangered Species Act and protect the flora and fauna of one of
America's richest biological areas are clashing head-on with the region's
traditional economies and its booming development. On a scale not seen
anywhere else in the nation, the patterns of everyday life in Arizona and
New Mexico are being altered by the pioneering 1973 law that sought to
protect animals and plants and "the ecosystems upon which they depend."
In effect, the Southwest has become ground zero in the nation's battle
over endangered species.
The fight has moved here from the Pacific Northwest in recent years in
large part because relatively small and obscure regional environmental
groups have conducted an aggressive campaign of litigation and
administrative appeals to force federal agencies to adhere to laws
governing wildlife and management of federal lands.
"It's huge," said Leon Fager, recently retired from his position as
threatened and endangered species coordinator for the U.S. Forest
Service's Southwest region. "It's at every level."
>From its slightly ramshackle pink adobe headquarters in a working-class
neighborhood of Tucson, for example, the Southwest Center for
Biological Diversity has launched a fusillade of dozens of legal actions
against federal agencies seeking greater protections for everything from
large mammals like the jaguar to obscure insects like the Thorne's
The Southwest Center's litigation record would be the envy of many law
firms. In a little more than four years, the organization with just a dozen or
so employees working at near minimum wage has filed 85 lawsuits and
endangered species listing petitions and won more than three-quarters of
those that have been completed. In the process, it has made life miserable
for scores of bureaucrats as well as the ranching, timber and real estate
interests it has opposed.
"Their goal is to have Arizona returned to its pre-European days except in
those isolated pockets where they want to allow humans to live," said
C.B. "Doc" Lane, who oversees natural resource issues for a group
representing Arizona cattle and sheep ranchers.
"Social change comes from social stress," said Kieran Suckling, the
Southwest Center's executive director, who cut his teeth in the
environmental movement with the militant group Earth First! and readily
concedes his goal is to disrupt federal land management until the agencies
adopt policies protecting entire ecological systems. "Our job is to intensify
that stress until large-scale change results."
Among the changes wrought by the center and other groups like the Santa
Fe-based Forest Guardians:
Two federal court injunctions that halted timber harvests in all 11 national
forests in New Mexico and Arizona over a span covering nearly two
years. The final injunction was lifted in December by the 9th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals, but not before the litigation had forced the Forest
Service to revamp its land management plans on 21 million acres to
protect the Mexican spotted owl and other species.
A thorough review by the Forest Service, forced by lawsuits, of more than
1,300 cattle-grazing allotments to see if they comply with environmental
laws. That review, and others by the Interior Department's Bureau of
Land Management, is ousting cattle from some sensitive stream-side
areas, forcing dramatic reductions on others, and has put the politically
powerful ranching industry on the defensive throughout the region.
A proposal by Pima County, Ariz., officials to require developers seeking
rezoning of undeveloped land on nearly a quarter of a million acres near
Tucson to conduct surveys for the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, which
could cost up to $2,500 an acre.
Mounting pressure on the federal agency that manages southwest dams
and rivers to alter operations to protect the southwest willow flycatcher,
an endangered bird.
Although similar to the conflict that beset the Pacific Northwest and its
timber communities in the late 1980s and early 1990s because of the
northern spotted owl, the battles over endangered species in the
Southwest are having a much broader effect.
In part that is a function of geography, climate and biology. "The
Southwest U.S. is particularly unique in its diversity of habitats," said Leon
Fisher, a Forest Service wildlife biologist, noting the intersection of
desert, plains and mountain ecosystems. The combination of aridity, heavy
population pressures and the fact that many species here exist at the
fringes of their natural ranges means "we're dealing with fragile systems,"
Life here -- animal, plant and human -- is unusually dependent on river
corridors such as those formed by the Gila River that springs out of the
mountains of western New Mexico and traverses Arizona to join the
Colorado at Yuma. Under heavy pressure for decades from dams and
diversions, livestock grazing and timber harvest, some of the Southwest's
riparian areas are unraveling biologically.
"Currently it is estimated that 70-80 percent of riparian areas in the region
are not meeting desired condition criteria," reported a team of Forest
Service biologists in a recent paper on four species of fish.
The deterioration is reflected in the ever-expanding list of endangered and
threatened species -- 66 so far on the 21 million acres of national forests
in the two states -- and the even longer list of "sensitive" species that are
heading in that direction. Faced with those biological facts, and prodded
relentlessly by environmentalists and an urbanizing populace with changing
values, federal agencies like the Forest Service and the BLM are being
pressured to re-evaluate their traditional bias in favor of commodity
On the isolated Blue River, for instance, fourth-generation rancher Bill
Marks and his wife, Barbara, have grazed about 225 cows on federal
lands for many years but are girding for large reductions as the Forest
Service reviews their permits and assesses how their grazing might be
affecting imperiled species like the Apache trout and loach minnow.
Neighbors up and down the Blue have been cut back by as much as 80
percent, "part of a greater plan," said Barbara Marks, "to phase us all out
of here and make this a national park."
"We've fenced streams, spread the cattle out and tried to work with the
Endangered Species Act," said Bill Marks, "but they keep coming after
us. . . . Eighty percent cuts are wiping out the livestock industry. It's a
pretty gloom-and-doom deal."
Offering no apologies for their assault on a way of life dating to the late
1800s, environmentalists are pressing forward with new lawsuits. In two
suits filed against the Forest Service since last fall, Forest Guardians and
the Southwest Center are seeking to halt grazing on nearly 200 grazing
allotments on millions of acres of federal land in Arizona and New
"Streams are the arteries of life in the arid Southwest," said John Horning,
director of watershed protection programs for Forest Guardians. "In order
to recover many of these critically imperiled species, we have to realize
livestock grazing and streamside health are incompatible."
Grazing, said the Southwest Center's Suckling, "just doesn't belong in the
Southwest. . . . Yes, we are destroying a way of life that goes back 100
years. But it's a way of life that is one of the most destructive in our
country. . . . Ranching is one of the most nihilistic life styles this
planet has ever seen. It should end. Good riddance."
Ranchers fear they will go the way of the region's timber industry, where
efforts to protect the Mexican spotted owl, the goshawk and other
species have contributed to a precipitous drop in logging, closed mills and
lost jobs. Federal timber cuts in the region have fallen from more than 300
million board feet annually to less than 100 million board feet.
The Precision Pine and Timber Co., for one, has closed two of its three
mills and now employs just 30 people, one-fifth what it used to. "I believe
the need to protect species is important, very important," said co-owner
Lewis Tenney, "but the groups that have been our enemy have used those
requirements in the courts to hammer us."
More recently, in the case of the pygmy owl -- so rare only a dozen
specimens have been found in Arizona -- the battle is being carried to
urban areas like Tucson, where the bird's defenders see it as a means to
curb what they see as rapacious sprawl and overdevelopment that has
lifted Pima County's population by more than 40 percent since 1980 and
where new housing permits number 5,000 a year.
"I don't think this has anything to do with the Endangered Species Act
other than to use it as a tool to slow development or stop development,"
said Alan Lurie, executive vice president of the Southern Arizona Home
Builders Association. "I think this is their vehicle."
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