CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
<www.biologicaldiversity.org> 9-27-01 #283
§ GRAND CANYON LAND TRADE STRUCK DOWN
§ SUIT FILED TO PROTECT 9 MILLION ACRES FOR OWL
§ PROTECTION SOUGHT FOR 57 ARIZONA RIVERS
§ SUIT CHALLENGES NATION’S MOST POLLUTING MINE ON
EDGE OF ARIZONA WILDERNESS
§ MINE THREATENS SACRED ZUNI SALT LAKE
§ INTERNATIONAL COALITION ANNOUNCES COLORADO RIVER
DELTA RESTORATION PRINCIPLES
GRAND CANYON LAND TRADE STRUCK DOWN
In response to a lawsuit by the Sierra Club and the Center for
Biological Diversity, a federal judge struck down a massive land trade
between the U.S. Forest Service and development corporation that
would have brought a 1,200 room hotel and the largest shopping
center in northern Arizona to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
Citing potential problems with water supplies and documents kept
from the public, Judge Paul Rosenblatt ruled on 9-13-01 that the
Forest Service was "clearly erroneous" in trading 272 acres of
national forest to the developers.
The case was argued by Howard Shanker of Hagens, Berman &
SUIT FILED TO PROTECT OVER 9 MILLION ACRES OF HABITAT
FOR THE MEXICAN SPOTTED OWL
On 8-27-01, the Center for Biological Diversity, Dinč CARE (a Navajo
environmental group), and the Center for Native Ecosystems filed
suit against the Department of Interior for illegally slashing nine
million acres out of its critical habitat proposal for the Mexican
spotted owl. The proposal included 13.5 million acres of forest, river
and canyon in AZ, NM, UT, and CO, while the final rule included only
In an amazing display of political tinkering, the Interior Department
excluded all National Forests in Arizona and New Mexico, even
though they contain 90% of all known spotted owls and the vast
majority of the logging and grazing in the region. The agency instead
included politically safe areas such as National Parks and
Monuments where logging and grazing are already prohibited.
Occupied and historical owl habitat on the Navajo Nation and within
Colorado and Utah was also excluded by the final rule.
The Mexican spotted owl was listed as a threatened species in 1993
in response to a petition filed by the Center and Dr. Robin Silver.
Relying mainly on old-growth mixed-conifer forests and healthy
riparian areas for nesting and foraging, the owl is threatened by
logging, wildland-urban interface projects, domestic livestock grazing,
fire suppression, and mining. About 2,000 owls remain in the four
corner states, Texas, and Mexico.
The suit is being argued by Matt Kenna of Kenna & Hickcox and Neil
Levine of Earthjustice.
For more information:
PROTECTION SOUGHT FOR 57 ARIZONA RIVERS
On 9-17-01, the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit against the
U.S. Forest Service for failing to develop management plans for 57
Arizona rivers and streams identified in 1993 as eligible for protection
under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Since ultimate designation under
the Act requires Congressional action and can take years or even
decades to accomplish, management plans provide critical interim
protection from dams, powerlines, livestock grazing, and logging.
This protection is now eight years overdue on Arizona’s six National
Totaling over 750 miles in length, the proposed rivers and streams
include the Black River, Blue River, and Eagle Creek (Apache-
Sitgreaves), East Clear Creek and Oak Creek (Coconino), Sycamore
Canyon, Grant Creek, and Sabino Creek (Coronado), Tonto Creek,
Cherry Creek, and Salome Creek (Tonto), and Kanab Creek
(Kaibab). Many are currently threatened. For example, a proposed
powerline by Tucson Electric Power would slice directly across
Sycamore Canyon on the Coronado National Forest.
The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act was created to protect America’s
remaining free-flowing rivers from dam proposals and other harmful
projects. Since its passage in 1968, over 10,500 miles of river
nationwide on over 150 river segments have been designated under
the Act. However, very few rivers have been designated in the
Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and other regions, and many
designated Wild & Scenic rivers are not receiving adequate
protection. To reverse these trends, the Center for Biological
Diversity has initiated a national campaign to designate and protect
Wild & Scenic Rivers.
The case is being argued by Matt Bishop of the Western
Environmental Law Center.
For more information on the Center’s Wild & Scenic Rivers
SUIT CHALLENGES NATION’S MOST POLLUTING MINE ON
EDGE OF ARIZONA WILDERNESS
On 9-18-01, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Land
Exchange Project, and Sierra Club filed suit to halt the proposed Ray
land exchange between the Bureau of Land Management and mining
giant Asarco. The exchange would give Asarco 10,976 acre of public
land in exchange for 7,300 acres of the company’s private holdings,
and would facilitate the expansion of Asarco’s Ray Mine, an open-pit
copper mine located 65 miles east of Phoenix and 50 miles north of
Tucson. By gaining private ownership of the land, Asarco would no
longer be subject to federal planning, reclamation, and bonding
requirements designed to reduce the environmental impacts of hard-
rock mining operations.
According to the EPA’s most recent Toxics Release Inventory,
Asarco’s Ray Mine is one of Arizona’s biggest industrial polluters,
releasing over 100 million pounds of pollutants in 1999. A 1997 U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service report found copper levels in fish below the
pit to be “by far” the highest recorded nationally. Pollution and
groundwater pumping for the mine are negatively impacting the Gila
River, designated critical habitat for the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl
and spikedace. The mine also draws water from the San Pedro River
15 miles away, occupied habitat for the Southwestern willow
The public land to be given to Asarco borders the isolated White
Canyon wilderness area, which contains perennial waters and
riparian deciduous forest, and is considered a priority reintroduction
site for bighorn sheep. Once in possession of the land, Asarco would
obliterate public access to the wilderness area.
Roger Flynn and Jeff Parsons of the Western Mining Action Project
in Boulder are arguing the suit.
For more information:
MINE THREATENS SACRED ZUNI SALT LAKE
On 8-9-01, the Center for Biological Diversity appealed New Mexico’s
renewal of Salt River Project’s permit for the proposed 18,000 acre
Fence Lake coal mine. SRP wants to extract more than 80 million
tons of coal from Fence Lake over the next 50 years for it’s St.
John’’s generating facility, which provides electricity to Phoenix.
Hydrologists believe that groundwater pumping associated with
Fence Lake would drain the Zuni Salt Lake, a sacred site and salt-
gathering area for the Zuni Pueblo as well as the Navajo and Hopi
tribes, Acoma Pueblo, and others.
Coal production has had, and continues to have, devastating effects
on the land and people of the four corners region, particularly Native
Americans. Strip mines such as Peabody’s Kayenta and Black Mesa
mines, BHP’s Navajo Mine, and Chevron’s McKinley Mine have
drained aquifers underlying Navajo and Hopi land, poisoned
residents, and polluted vast areas of land and water. Once mined,
the coal is then shipped to enormous generating facilities including
Mohave (Laughlin, NV), Navajo (Page, AZ) and Four Corners
(Farmington, NM) which produce electricity for Los Angeles, Phoenix,
Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque, and El Paso. Air pollution from
these facilities has greatly reduced visibility in many areas of the
Southwest, including Grand Canyon National Park.
The Center for Biological Diversity has joined with the Pueblo of Zuni,
Sierra Club’’s environmental justice campaign, Citizen’s Coal
Council, Water Information Network, and others to defeat the proposed
Fence Lake Mine. The coalition will be engaging in a
number of efforts in coming months to pressure both SRP and
Interior Secretary Gale Norton to abandon this project and begin
reversing the shameful legacy of coal production in the Southwest.
INTERNATIONAL COALITION ANNOUNCES COLORADO RIVER
DELTA RESTORATION PRINCIPLES
Twenty groups from the U.S. and Mexico have released a set of
principles to guide restoration and protection of wetlands in the
Colorado River delta region of Mexico. The principles were released
September 12th as agencies and groups from both countries met in
Mexicali at a first-ever government sponsored symposium on the
First and foremost, a dedicated source of fresh water is needed to
restore and maintain several priority wetland areas in the delta. The
groups also call for a halt to activities which may harm the delta, and
improved cooperation between the countries to aid conservation.
For more information on the Colorado River Delta campaign: