BIODIVERSITY ALERT #124 ---------
\ 3-31-98 /
\ SOUTHWEST CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY /
1. WOLVES REINTRODUCED TO GILA HEADWATERS ECOSYSTEM-
RANCHERS FILE SUIT TO REMOVE THEM
2. WATER HOGS REFUSE ENVIRO REQUEST TO SAVE COLORADO RIVER DELTA
3. ENVIROS PUSH FOR STATEWIDE GROWTH BOUNDARY BALLOT MEASURE IN AZ
4. MORE FOREST SERVICE WHISTLEBLOWERS SPEAK OUT ON OVERGRAZING,
LOGGING, ABUSE OF BIOLOGISTS IN SOUTHWEST
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WOLVES REINTRODUCED TO GILA HEADWATERS ECOSYSTEM-
RANCHERS FILE SUIT TO REMOVE THEM
On 3-29-98, three families of wolves were released into the Blue
Primitive Area on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, in the Gila
Headwaters Ecosystem. The 11 wolves mark the return of the Mexican
gray wolf to the wild after being nearly exterminated by ranchers and
government predator control agencies.
Ranchers filed suit several days before the release, seeking to
send the wolves back to the zoo. In an attempt to mimick the recent
Yellowstone suit which resulted in an order to remove introduced wolves,
the ranchers claimed that wild wolves already roam southern Arizona which
is completely untrue. They also argue that the wolves are actually wolf/
WATER HOGS REFUSE ENVIRO REQUEST TO SAVE COLORADO RIVER DELTA
On 3-11-98, California's Colorado River Board rejected an appeal by 14
conservation groups and scientists to consider protecting the estuaries
and delta of the Colorado River as it flows into the Sea of Cortez. CA,
AZ, NV, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
are developing a multi-species conservation plan for the Lower Colorado
River, but have refused to consider the impact of dams, diversions, and
pollution south of the border in Mexico, including the Colorado River
The request by Defenders of Wildlife, the Southwest Center and others
was rejected by the mega-water interests dominating the conservation plan
because they fear recognition of the delta will lead to requirements for
minimum in stream flows and environmental spike flows from Hoover Dam to
maintain and restore the delta ecosystem.
ENVIROS PUSH FOR STATEWIDE GROWTH BOUNDARY BALLOT MEASURE IN AZ
The Center for Law in the Public Interest and the Sierra Club have
announced a ballot measure to institute Oregon style growth boundaries
zones around sprawling Arizona towns and cities. The Act would require
cities and counties to adopt urban growth management plans to limit urban
sprawl and protect natural areas. Plans would establish urban growth
boundaries, limit development and new city services outside of the
boundaries, require developers to pay for roads, schools and other public
facilities to serve their new developments, and provide for
protection of air and water quality. Plans and amendments would
require voter approval, and citizens could also adopt plans and
amendments by initiative.
MORE FOREST SERVICE WHISTLEBLOWERS SPEAK OUT ON OVERGRAZING, LOGGING,
ABUSE OF BIOLOGISTS IN SOUTHWEST
The following is condensed from an article in the latest edition of
High Country News. Check out our whistleblowers page to see many of the
internal Forest Service memos mentioned: http://www.sw-center.org
Staffers Say Their Agency Betrayed the Land
By Tony Davis
In his 28 years of working for the U.S. Forest Service, fish biologist
Jim Cooper never thought of himself as an idealist. Even when he was
starting out, he says, he thought a rising human population would
continually stress the national forests, yet he hoped the agency's
management could slow the deterioration of forests, wildlife and the
Southwest's precious streams.
By this January, when he quit his job in the Southwest regional
forester's office in Albuquerque, he had lost that hope.
"I don't think in the final analysis we slowed anything down," Cooper
said recently. "I'm not a fatalist. I don't think we will automatically
go downhill. But you can't graze cows and cut timber the way we've done
it and protect the resource. It doesn't work."
Cooper is part of a growing band of ex-Forest Service biologists and
managers who are adding their voices to the barrage of criticism from
environmentalists over the Southwest region's handling of timber and
grazing issues. Five agency officials in the region have quit or taken
early retirement in the past few years, in part out of frustration with
the agency's management.
In a dizzying series of internal memos, letters and interviews, they
have painted an image of an agency circling the wagons against
environmentalist "enemies" such as the Southwest Center for Biological
Diversity. The agency, the former employees say, would rather win
lawsuits than restore battered ecosystems.
Their revelations show that the debates that rage throughout the Forest
Service are distilled in the arid Southwest. Here, cattle have more
obvious impacts on fragile desert soils, grasses and streamside
vegetation. Logging has also taken a heavy toll on the Southwest's
It's no surprise, they say, that the Southwest is a hotbed for
environmental lawsuits. Couple the climate with an agency under
pressure from both pro-industrial senators like Pete Domenici and
law-savvy environmentalists, and you have a recipe for contention.
Fire From the Inside
Complaints that the Forest Service has put timber and grazing before
wildlife have been bouncing around the agency for years. An example
is a report put together in 1993 for Jim Lloyd, the Southwest region's
director of wildlife, fish and rare plants. Intended to give agency
staffers, state game and fish departments and environmentalists an
anonymous place to voice their concerns, the report contained numerous
"In most meetings, wildlife is a stepchild to the other resource areas,"
wrote one critic. "Only thing that wildlife is getting done is timber
sales and timber support," wrote another. "What wildlife program?" asked
a third. "Biologists are so busy chasing timber sales and cattle allotments."
At the heart of the problem, critics said, was an old-guard bureaucracy
that had dug in its boot heels and refused to change with the times. In
1996, Jim Cooper joined five other agency biologists and wrote Lloyd a
letter complaining about what they saw as a militaristic, top-down
management style. "If we even so much as suggest that we have different
views, we are shunned," they wrote. "Management seems to hold the opinion
that the authority is not to be questioned about decisions. Everyone on
this staff is burned out."
The turmoil surfaced publicly last year, when a team of Forest Service
fish biologists, led by veteran Jerry Stefferud of Phoenix, wrote a
report saying the agency was letting pro-ranching sentiments interfere
with stream recovery. "We will do anything to restore riparian ecosystem
health as long as it does not affect (the rancher)," the fish team wrote.
In a separate paper, Stefferud acknowledged managers had come up with
alternatives for keeping streams healthy, but they seldom worked, because
"cattle grazing is a core value of the agency and riparian health and
endangered species management is not."
Then Regional Forester Charles "Chip" Cartwright wrote U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service regional director Nancy Kaufman in Albuquerque disowning
the report's criticisms: "As much as we respect the opinions of our
employees, the team leader's comments do in no way reflect the opinion
of the Forest Service."
According to Cooper and others, Stefferud's criticism earned him a
"window job," in which his travel and research are limited. "He is on the
outside now," Cooper said.
Lloyd, Stefferud's director, explained the treatment: "He was very
critical of management and that broke down communication and his ability
to convey technical information."
Critics Speak Out
The apparent consequences of speaking out within the agency make the
recent resignations all the more significant.
Leon Fager, the agency's former regional chief for endangered species,
is a 31-year service employee who retired last December. He wrote Forest
Service Chief Mike Dombeck in February asking him to fire Jim Lloyd and
one other top agency official "who demonstrate lack of leadership and
unwillingness to manage resources for the public good instead of for
the financial benefit of the livestock industry."
Fager also asked Dombeck to set up a panel of independent scientists
to assess the health of streams and wildlife in the Southwest and
recommend new restoration policies.
Doug Barber, a former deputy supervisor of Arizona's Apache Sitgreaves
National Forest and an even harsher critic, wrote Sen. Pete Domenici a
letter contending that the federal grazing-permit system was "a comatose
patient on life support, and it's time to turn the machine off."
As an example, he cited a recent case in which the Arizona Game and Fish
Department paid $100,000 to fence cattle from eastern Arizona streams to
protect the threatened Apache trout. The 372 head of cattle, which run
for 5 months a year, will generate $2,500 a year in grazing fees.
"Did we solve the problem?" asked Barber. "Yes, but was it in the most
effective way? Did we build the fences to protect the streams or to
protect the cows?"
Still, critics like Sandy Knight, who left her job as a biologist in
January after almost 20 years with the agency, say it will take more
than studies and cooperation to solve the agency's problems.
"I think the Forest Service has a crisis of identity," Knight said.
"It has been an instrument of productivity so long, and Congress has
wanted it to be."
While some staffers are trying to push the agency toward responsible,
science-based management, she says, the incentive system pulls them
in the other direction. "When people get performance appraisals,
they are still asked how many lawsuits do they win, how many timber
sales do they get out and how many AUMs (animal unit-months of
livestock grazing) do they get out," she says.
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