BIODIVERSITY ALERT #121 ---------
\ 3/11/98 /
\ SOUTHWEST CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY /
1. TWO TOP FOREST SERVICE BIOLOGISTS BLAST SOUTHWEST LOGGING, GRAZING
2. SUIT EYED TO PROTECT SILVERSPOT BUTTERFLY HABITAT IN BAY AREA
NATION'S FIRST HCP THREATENS NEW SPECIES
3. SKEEN (R-NM) BULLIES U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE OVER GILA GRIZZLIES
4. PYGMY OWL SHAKES UP TUCSON: "SONORAN DESERT PROTECTION ACT" UNVEILED,
COUNTY SUPERVISORS TURN GREEN, DAILY STAR CALL FOR REGIONAL PLANNING
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TWO TOP FOREST SERVICE BIOLOGISTS BLAST SOUTHWEST LOGGING, GRAZING
The former Southwest Regional Fisheries Coordinator has joined the former
head of Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Species for the Forest Service
in the Southwest, in condemning overgrazing, logging, and destruction of
The following article by Ian Hoffman appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on
March 5, 1998. It was syndicated around the Southwest, appearing in the
Arizona Republic under the title "Forest Service draws fire of 2 biologists:
Wildlife loses out to logging, grazing, ex-officials say."
Frustrated Biologists Blast Forest Service
Top-ranked biologists Leon Fager and Jim Cooper bowed out of the U.S.
Forest Service's Southwest office after years of frustration. But they aren't
The former chiefs of the region's endangered species and fisheries
are openly condemning a senior management culture they say is enslaved to
logging and grazing at alarming cost to fish, wildlife and their habitats.
The two biologists said they grew tired of having staff and money pulled
away from preserving wildlife to instead defend logging and grazing against
"Livestock grazing on Southwestern National Forests is the major reason
that ecosystems are deteriorating, species are near extinction and watersheds
have lost much of their ability to yield high quality and quantities of
water," Fager, a 31-year service veteran, wrote in a Feb. 23 letter to Forest
Service chief Mike Dombeck.
Fager urged Dombeck to fire Southwest line managers who show
to manage resources for the public good instead of the financial benefit of
the livestock industry."
He also called on Dombeck to send an independent team of scientists and
economists to the Southwest to study grazing, its financial costs and its
to the environment.
"The region is now 'circling the wagons' and spending millions of taxpayer
dollars to defend a livestock grazing program that has outlived its value and
needs to be phased out as an inappropriate use of national forests in the
century," Fager wrote.
Cooper took early retirement in January as the region's fisheries chief.
After 28 years of government work, he felt increasingly isolated inside his
own agency and frustrated at its habit of reacting to, rather than
crises over wildlife and habitat.
"We took all of our people out of the field and put tremendous emphasis on
proving the Mexican spotted owl did not need to be listed (as an endangered
species.) And the reason we did that was because it was a threat to the
program," Cooper said. "Congress is shrinking the dollars down, and we are
putting all our effort into saving the timber industry and the range
program We're entrenched in a reactive mode."
Acting Southwest Regional Forester Gilbert Vigil defended the region as a
good steward of natural resources.
"Considering our ecosystems -- which includes our communities -- we don't
just move in there and make drastic changes overnight," he said. "I think
we're making progress."
Cooper was quietly sidelined, he said, when he defended a team of
biologists who last year issued a sharply worded indictment of grazing and
damage to riverside forests and grasses.
Called riparian habitat, these corridors of water and greenery are
shrinking in the Southwest. They make up less than 1 percent of the Forest
Service's 21 million acres in New Mexico and Arizona. Eighty-four percent
to meet the Forest Service grade for ecosystem health.
Roughly 70 percent of the Southwest's rare plants and animals live in
riparian areas or rely on them for food, shelter or breeding ground. And
plainly they're essential for fish. "There's a lot of rhetoric being tossed
around about recreation and riparian areas being so valued. I hear a lot of
talk but I don't see the walk," Cooper said. "While we're talking out of one
side of our mouths, internally we're slam-dunking any biologist who speaks up
and says, 'Hey, there's something wrong.' And that's basically why I left. I
spoke up a few times too often."
For years, the service's Southwest Region has suffered attack from the
outside world -- citizen lawsuits, protests and critical press.
Just last year, insiders joined the pack. Fager and Cooper are the highest
ranking dissidents yet, making their comments arguably the most damaging.
They come at a critical time for the Southwest Region. As the nation's new
battleground for endangered species, it is fighting more environmental and
public-records lawsuits than any other part of the country.
And most of its senior managers just bailed out, including the region's
timber and grazing chiefs. Former Regional Forester Charles Cartwright
resigned earlier under the cloud of sexual harassment charges. In short, the
region's Old Guard is thinning.
"Here's a chance to replace those folks with people who are sensitive to
the demands of the public, and that's not for cows," Fager said in a phone
Dombeck has named Forest Service lands director and lawyer Eleanor S.
"Ellie" Towns to replace Cartwright. Towns is due in Albuquerque to take over
the region in April.
It is Fager's hope that she or Dombeck will replace his and Cooper's
immediate boss, Jim Lloyd, the Southwest Region's Director of Wildlife, Fish
and Rare Plants.
"He does not support the sensitive species program, hinders those working
for him and seems to always support continued livestock grazing regardless of
its faults. He sees himself as a 'team player' and a defender of the status
quo," Fager wrote Dombeck.
The letter stunned Lloyd when a reporter faxed him a copy on Wednesday. He
worked with Fager six years and with Cooper 20 years.
"If I'm being criticized as a team player with management because I'm
communicating, well, then OK," Lloyd said. "What I've been trying to do is
work with management to make change happen, rather than just being on the
Lloyd called Fager and Cooper "valued employees" and agreed that "timber
and range have taken a higher seat at the table" than protection of natural
resources during his tenure.
"We've been in litigation, we've been trying to change," he said. "But the
funding has decreased. We're grossly understaffed. It's been a tremendous
workload, and things don't happen overnight.
It's unclear what Dombeck or Towns will make of the latest criticisms.
"I don't know what Mike will do. I think he'll probably want to know more
about it and I think he'll come to us," said Vigil, the acting forester.
SUIT EYED TO PROTECT SILVERSPOT BUTTERFLY HABITAT IN BAY AREA
NATION'S FIRST HCP THREATENS NEW SPECIES
On 3-5-98, San Bruno Mountain Watch and the Southwest Center filed official
notice that they will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to
designate critical habitat for the endangered Callipe Silverspot Butterfly.
The butterfly was listed as endangered on 12-5-97 in response to a threatened
lawsuit by the Southwest Center. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, however,
refused to designate "critical habitat" claiming that doing so would alert
collectors of its presence. This is nonsense since the critical habitat
designation would be less detailed than several already available butterfly
The real threat to the Callippe is habitat destruction allowed under the
San Bruno Mountain habitat conservation plan- the nation's first HCP. If the
Service designates critical habitat, it will be forced to alter the terms of
the HCP, thus demonstrating that its new No Surprises policy is a sham. The
new policy mandates that HCPs continue unchanged, regardless of their effects
on endangered species.
The case is being argued by Brian Gaffney and Celeste Langille.
SKEEN (R-NM) BULLIES U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE OVER GILA GRIZZLIES
At a 3-11-98 House Appropriations Subcommittee meeting, Congressman Joe Skeen
(R-NM) leveled not so veiled threats against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
budget, extracting a statement from the national director that the agency has
no plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to the Gila Headwaters Ecosystem. The
Southwest Center previously informed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
adequate grizzly bear recover plan must include reintroducing the species
Southwest. A Forest Service sponsored study in the 1970's indicates that
habitat exists in Gila Wilderness to serve as the core of reintroduction
PYGMY OWL SHAKES UP TUCSON: "SONORAN DESERT PROTECTION ACT" UNVEILED,
COUNTY SUPERVISORS TURN GREEN, DAILY STAR CALLS FOR REGIONAL PLANNING
The endangered Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl has sparked a host of
lawsuits in the Tucson Basin and threats of many more, bringing decades-
long development battles to a head with amazing speed and promise.
Suddenly, county supervisors are calling for growth controls,
infill tax incentives, ordinances to protect washes and native vegetation,
protection of open space and important wildlife habitat, and buffers
around public lands. Tucson enviros have formed a coalition to develop
and pass the Sonoran Desert Protection Act which will preserve an
interconnected system wildlife habitats throughout the basin. The Arizona
Daily Star has published an amazing series of editorials encouraging big
vision which will require fundamental changes in the traditionally
developer controlled power structure.
In a 2-24-98 editorial- "Managing sprawl: Think big"- the Daily Star
applauded growth reform ordinances, but encouraged the county board of
"think bigger. In lieu of scattershot initiatives it should focus on
a more comprehensive approach to planning future development and
conservation...What is needed also is a more systematic, science-based
design for reconciling the county's growth explosion to its precious
landscape. The board should keep its eye on the big picture by
entertaining a thoughtful growth management concept that will be put
forward at today's session by a consortium of local environmental groups
....At the crux of this design (the Sonoran Desert Protection Act) would
be the delineation of ``core'' protection areas and ``linkage corridors''
for sensitive wildlife and vegetation. These reserves and corridors would
eventually be protected using a variety of techniques, ranging from
outright purchase to new zoning (to provide larger lot sizes)to the use of
conservation easements. At the same time other areas would remain open to
building. The result would likely be a more predictable and farther-
reaching system for balancing economic enterprise and ecological and
In a 2-26-98 editorial- "Suddenly: Action on sprawl"- the Daily Star asked:
"Is this it? Is Tucson finally going to receive the more balanced, more
ecologically sustainable management of urban sprawl it has needed for
The paper praised a
"passel of new initiatives calls for ``comprehensive'' protection for
sensitive wildlife and desert areas. This alone, if correctly implemented,
could define a whole new era in Tucson by empowering the county to take a
truly systematic approach to protecting critical ``core'' resource areas
while opening other areas to appropriate development."
while dissing developers for trying to put the breaks on the growing momentum
to reign in uncontrolled growth and protect the Sonoran Desert.
Kieran Suckling email@example.com
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