silver city, tucson, phoenix, san diego



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Defenders of Wildlife, the Southwest Center for Biological
Diversity, the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Steve
Johnson have appealed a BLM decision to issue a grazing permit
for the South Vekol Grazing Allotment.

The heavily overgrazed allotment contains a large portion of the
Table Top Mountain Wilderness Study Area, the Vekol Valley Grassland
Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), and habitat for big
horn sheep and desert tortoise. Despite being established to protect
a 300 acre remnant of tobosa grassland and a unique amphibian
community, the ACEC is visibly overgrazed. The grazing permit,
however, was issued without an EA or EIS. It also violates the Lower
Gila South Resource Management Plan monitoring requirements.


The following OpEd by Kieran Suckling appeared in the Arizona
Republic, 3/17/97:

"Jaguar-Conservation Plan Lacks Teeth to Save Vital Habitat

Full of power and grace, the jaguar is a symbol of mystery and
wilderness throughout the Americas. The largest cat in the Western
Hemisphere also on the brink of extinction. But the Arizona
Department of Game and Fish, New Mexico Game and Fish
Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service don't want to list
it as an endangered species in the United States. Neither do cattle
ranchers, developers, or federal predator hunters.

They are afraid protection under the Endangered Species Act would
require restoration of streamside forests, or the slowing of
development along the San Pedro River before it becomes as barren
as the Salt River in Phoenix.

Ironically, while the jaguar is listed as endangered in Mexico where
populations still roam remote mountains and rivers, it is not listed
in the U.S., where hunting and habitat destruction have wiped out
every viable jaguar population and most of its streamside habitat.

Game and Fish wants us to believe that its recently created Jaguar
Conservation Plan is so strong that federal protection not needed.
Unfortunately, the plan is no more than a wish list of promises and
possibilities. It doesn't protect a single acre of land or a single
drop of water. It doesn't even increase the fine for poaching
jaguars as high as the price of jaguar pelt on the black market. The
plan is a weak, last ditch effort to avoid real habitat protection.

The jaguar was first listed as endangered in 1972 under the
Endangered Species Conservation Act, the precursor to today's
Endangered Species Act. Because of this glitch in paperwork in
1979, the jaguar was "inadvertently" not listed as endangered in the
U.S. Three other Arizona species suffered from the same mistake:
the ocelot, the margay, and the thick-billed parrot. The Fish and
Wildlife Service promised to list them all as endangered as soon as
possible, in the mean time requesting that "all Federal and State
agencies...provide them with the same considerations, wherever
possible, that they would receive as endangered species until such
time as they can be listed."

A year later the jaguar was proposed for listing as endangered with
a warning that the U.S. Army's Fort Huachuca on the San Pedro River
would be required to help conserve the imperiled cat. The promised
listing never happened. In 1982 the proposal was quietly withdrawn
and hope for the jaguar faded away- until 1994, when the Southwest
Center for Biological Diversity filed suit. The Fish and Wildlife
Service eventually reproposed to list the jaguar as endangered,
citing "drastic distributional decline of the species and the
continued jeopardy of any individuals in the U.S." With remarkable
cynicism (and disregard for the law), however, the agency  announced
it would not develop a recovery plan, designate critical habitat, or
even reintroduce jaguars to Arizona. Not surprisingly, the agency
failed to finalize the listing, prompting another Southwest Center
lawsuit in 1996.

Make no mistake. State conservation plans and cooperative agreements
can protect imperiled species. State agencies can show the feds how
to conserve wildlife. But to do so, the states must ensure concrete
habitat protection and strong anti-poaching laws. That's where the
Jaguar Conservation Plan falls short. It's most concrete provision is
a plan for a slideshow and an educational brochure.

And then there is the clause permitting the Governor of Arizona to
cancel the plan at any time...imagine what Fife Symington, the man
who recently offered to shoot a spotted owl and bulldoze the Gila
River, would do with that option.

The jaguar has been betrayed by 30 years of false promises. Like the
Mexican gray wolf and the Apache trout, it deserves the full
protection of the Endangered Species Act."

Kieran Suckling                             
Executive Director                                    phone:  520-733-1391
Southwest Center for Biological Diversity        fax:    520-733-1404
POB 17839, Tucson, AZ 85731