\ SOUTHWEST BIODIVERSITY ALERT #140 /
\ 7-10-98 /
\ SOUTHWEST CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY /
1. FOREST SERVICE WHISTLEBLOWER: BIOLOGISTS SACRAFICED TO CATTLE,
POLITICOS SHOULD NOT HINDER LONG-AWAITED REFORMS
2. "IT'S WHOLE DIFFERENT MINDSET FROM WHAT CAPITALISM IS FOUNDED
ON": PHOENIX MAGAZINE PROFILES SW CENTER
3. COMMENTS NEEDED ON N.A.F.T.A. REPORT TO SAVE THE SAN PEDRO
RIVER- PLEASE WRITE TODAY!
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FOREST SERVICE WHISTLEBLOWER: BIOLOGISTS SACRAFICED TO CATTLE,
POLITICOS SHOULD NOT HINDER LONG-AWAITED REFORMS
Former Forest Service Biologist Leon Fager published the following
editorial in the Albuquerque Journal on 7-10-98. It argues that
the agency is finally listening to its own biologists about the
devastating impacts of cattle grazing, and that New Mexico's
congressional delegation should not interfere with agreements to
remove cattle for streamsides on public lands.
"U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen, R-NM, has called for congressional
hearings into what he calls "secret agreements" between the
Southwest Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Forest
Service to remove cattle from several hundred miles of streams
on public lands in Arizona and New Mexico.
The terrible impact of overgrazing on the Southwest's fragile
river systems, however, is no secret. Forest Service biologists
have been warning the agency to take action for nearly 90 years.
That top decision maker are finally taking notice, is reason to
praise the agency, not attack it.
I worked for the Forest Service as biologist for 31 years. From
1992-1998 I served as the Sensitive, Threatened and Endangered
Species program manager for all National Forests in Arizona and
New Mexico. I have seen first hand, the tremendous loss of fish
and wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreational
opportunities due to systematic overgrazing. I and other biologists
called for change, but were ignored or told to keep quiet. We were
As early as 1901, in a report entitled Range Improvement In
Arizona, land managers told that "destruction of the range could
be so nearly complete [it] is somewhat beyond the conception of
those not familiar with...composition of the soils, and habits of
forage plants in the region." In the 1920's and 30's, Aldo
Leopold warned that Sapillo Creek in New Mexico, and the Blue
River in Arizona were being "ruined" by cattle even though
grazing pressure was not heavy by eastern standards. "The lesson,"
he wrote, " is that, under our peculiar Southwestern conditions,
any grazing at all, no matter how moderate, is liable to
overgraze and ruin the watercourse." While many know Leopold as
a pioneering ecologist, few know that he worked for the Forest
Service right here in the Southwest.
In 1977, another Forest Service biologist wrote that "Overgrazing
by domestic livestock...is probably the major factor contributing
to the failure of riparian areas [i.e. streamside forests] to
propagate themselves." Still, little was done. In 1997, a team of
four Forest Service fish biologists reported that "range
management is a chronic abuser of riparian habitats (because)...
the Forest Service develops solutions to meet the needs of the
rancher, the cattle the agency. Soil, vegetation, water and
wildlife resources are secondary considerations."
And now in 1998, because of environmental lawsuits, the Forest
Service is finally taking stock of grazing impacts. What are
they finding? That the Sapillo andBlue Rivers are still
overgrazed, as are the Gila, San Francisco and Verde rivers.
Endangered species are being pushed to the brink, while valuable
recreational opportunities are being lost.
The recent negotiations between environmentalists and the Forest
Service to take cows off hundreds of miles of streams is a good
sign that the agency is finally taking 90 years of warning to
heart. An even better sign is a recent Forest Service commitment
to assess the impact of cattle on a host of endangered species
and rivers in both states. This assessment should also take a
hard look at the questionable economics of cattle grazing on
public lands. Can we, should we, continue to subsidize the
destruction of rivers on public lands with federal tax dollars?
Skeen and Sen. Domenici should not interfere with the Forest
Service's attempt to right a century of wrongs. The West is
changing rapidly, people expect more from the land than beaten
down streambanks and government subsidized beef. They expect
clean water, cool shady rivers, and healthy watersheds. Surely
this is not too high an expectation from our public lands?
"IT'S WHOLE DIFFERENT MINDSET FROM WHAT CAPITALISM IS FOUNDED ON":
PHOENIX MAGAZINE PROFILES SW CENTER
The May issue of Phoenix Magazine contains an in depth article
on the Southwest Center by Peter Alshire, including a great
photo spread of endangered species and forests. A few exerpts:
"Peter Galvin, Robin Silver, and the equally frenetic Suckling
established the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity -
to the deep, lasting, and ever-renewed dismay of the ranchers,
loggers, U.S. Forest Service administrators, the Arizona and
New Mexico congressional delegation (most of them), and just
about anyone who believes that making money off public lands
should take precedence over the needs of ecosystems, wildlife
and endangered species...Sometimes it seems that the Center
has made itself a keystone species in the politics of every
major environmental battle in the Southwest."
"It's hard to argue with the results. The Southwest Center
files one or two lawsuits every month, with a batting record
only Perry Mason can match...[It] has turned environmental
lawsuits into an expertly wielded strategic weapon in a multi-
front war of attrition against federal agencies. The Center
combines relentless persistence with a shrewd willingness to
take a shot at any target of opportunity..."
COMMENTS NEEDED ON N.A.F.T.A. REPORT TO SAVE THE SAN PEDRO RIVER-
PLEASE WRITE TODAY!
1) NEWS BRIEF
2) POINTS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR COMMENTS
3) BACKGROUNDER "The San Pedro River to be NAFTA Test Case"
1) NEWS BRIEF
On 6-15-98, NAFTA's Commission for Environmental Cooperation released
a public review draft of its long awaited scientific assessment of
water depletion in the upper San Pedro River. Entitled "Sustaining and
Enhancing Riparian Migratory Bird Habitat on the Upper San Pedro
River," the report concludes that the river will dry up, destroying
the nation's first Riparian National Conservation area if serious
efforts are not taken to curtail urban sprawl, superfluous
agriculture, and excessive water pumping.
This is the first time the NAFTA panel has reviewed an environmental
problem in the United States. It did so in response to a petition
under Article 13 by the Southwest Center represented by EarthLaw.
Public comments on the draft are being accepted until August 14, 1998.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE NEEDED! The CEC is only soliciting comments from
within the river basin itself, which is dominated by developers and
the military, thereby attempting to stack the weight of comments
against major policy reforms. You can read the report and submit
comments from the Southwest Center's web page
2) POINTS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR COMMENTS:
After a sound scientific study of water problem on the San Pedro the
draft report, "Sustaining and Enhancing the Riparian Migratory Bird
Habitat on the Upper San Pedro River" goes on to make some rather
unsound recommendations. While we encourage everyone to read the draft
report and come up with their own comments we also have identified
what we think are the most important points regarding the CEC report.
Please include the following in your comments:
€ BALANCE THE WATER BUDGET! Uncontrolled growth is sucking all the
water. Fort Huachuca is a main source of uncontrolled growth in Sierra
Vista it must balance the water budget. If the Fort can't operate
without a water deficit, it must be closed.
€ CREATE AN "ACTIVE MANAGEMENT AREA" in the San Pedro basin. Sierra
Vista is one of the only metro areas in Arizona that doesn't have an
AMA. Most AMAs state that you can not drill a well or build a
development unless you can demonstrate you have an 'assured water
supply' that will not negatively effect the aquifer. Until an AMA is
established there will be no way to keep developers from pushing
€ DON'T MOVE THE CONSERVATION AREA TO ALLOW THE RIVER TO DIE. One
suggestion is to "shift" the riparian conservation area southward,
away from the portion of river most immediately threatened by over
pumping. This is supposed to allow the continued destruction of the
river, while "saving" the conservation area. Such thinking is
narrow-minded in the extreme. A better solution is to expand to SPRNCA
to include more of the river, including the area that crosses the
international boundary. This will provide an incentive to control
water depletion in the entire upper river basin and provide better,
more secure wildlife habitat and open space.
€ NO IMPORTED WATER! Importing water from the Tombstone pipeline, the
Douglas Basin, or CAP is a temporary "solution" that will only cause
water problems in other areas and fuel unsustainable growth.
€ RETIRE AGRICULTURE WITHIN THE BASIN. The Bureau of Land Management
and the Nature Conservancy have already retired some agricultural
lands, it's time to retire the rest.
(feel free to reproduce this article - please notify us if you do -
The San Pedro River to be NAFTA Test Case
by Al Anderson, Huachuca Audubon Society, and Naomi Mudge, Southwest
Center for Biological Diversity
The San Pedro River is a 140-mile-long green "ribbon of life" running
through a semi-arid desert. Host to mesquite bosque and the
Southwest's largest remaining stand of cottonwood/willow
riparian-forest, this river is a virtual highway for animals. This
wildlife corridor supports more than 400 bird species, 100 butterfly
species, 83 mammal species and 47 amphibian and reptile species,
including the second highest land-mammal diversity in the world,
second only to the montane forests of Costa Rica. It is the principal
recovery area for many endangered species including the jaguar,
Southwestern willow flycatcher, as well as endangered native fish and
plants. Riparian areas (where water is near or at the surface) are
virtual oases of life in the desert and more than one-half of all bird
species found in the United States frequent the San Pedro River. With
headwaters in Cananea, Mexico, the San Pedro has international
Because of the biological importance of the San Pedro, in particular
its importance to migratory birds, the U.S. Congress created the San
Pedro National Riparian Conservation Area in 1988. Since then it has
been named as the first "Globally Important Bird Area" in North
America (American Bird Conservancy).
The San Pedro River receives much of its water from the Sierra Vista
sub-watershed regional aquifer. Sierra Vista, a growing southwestern
city, also uses this aquifer as does nearby Fort Huachuca. The area's
inhabitants ground pump water before it reaches the river. Decreased
flows of the San Pedro have led to an increase in dry sections of the
stream bed. Hydrologists predict dire consequences for the river's
survival if the trend continues; the base-flows have decreased 75% in
the last 50 years. Growth from the U.S. Army's Fort Huachuca remains
the greatest short-term threat to the river. Uncontrolled growth
remains the greatest long-term threat.
Because both the San Pedro and the wildlife that depend on it cross
the U.S./Mexico border, threats to the river have international
implications. The Montreal-based Commission for Environmental
Cooperation (CEC) has been established as part of an environmental
side-accord to the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). For the
first time the CEC has examined an environmental issue originating in
the U.S., the threat to the San Pedro. Their draft report, titled:
"Sustaining and Enhancing Riparian Migratory Bird Habitat on the Upper
San Pedro River," was released June 15 and they are now in the process
of collecting public comment on the report. Ultimately the report is
intended to promote cooperative efforts to recognize and protect
habitats of special continental importance; to catalyze and call
attention to existing efforts to protect such resources and to educate
a broader public of North Americans about the importance of the
sustainable management of valued trans-boundary resources.
Comments on the San Pedro report will be taken until August 15. Please
write in and tell them why the river is important. To read and comment
on the report you can visit the Southwest Center for Biological
Diversity page at:
or you can write to Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy,
University of Arizona, 803/811 E. First Street, Tucson, AZ 85719,
(520)621-7189 fax: (520) 621-9234, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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